Obamacare in Connecticut

By Vishakha Negi ‘13
EE Co-Editor-in-Chief

Joining the ranks of New York, Connecticut is now ready to implement its blueprint for the Affordable Care Act. According to The Connecticut Post, Gov. Daniel P. Malloy and the General Assembly have established the Connecticut Health Care Exchange and received $107 million for implementation of the law, putting Connecticut a month ahead of the national government’s assigned deadline.

“It’s my understanding we informed (the federal government) a month ago that we will be in full compliance. We are way ahead of the pack,” says State Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford.

“We have news to share about our progress and we also want to answer questions from residents who want to learn more about how we will achieve the goals of the Exchange – to provide a fair and trusted destination to support residents in accessing affordable, high quality health care coverage.” Says Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange.

Originally, states faced a deadline of November 16 to submit to the federal government their blueprints for a “healthcare insurance exchange.” Under the Affordable Care Act, such insurance exchanges or private insurance options will be available to citizens who, if unable to pay for either of the options, will still be offered Medicaid.

This would help 12 million Americans come 2014; and ensure coverage for 11% of CT residents (380,000 people) without health insurance.

States with Republican governors wanted to create plans only if Mr. Obama’s victory had been sealed. As the victory margin of forty electoral votes seems to convey, according to many analysts, the legislation was here to stay.

For lagging states, the deadline has been extended to December 14, as plans have to be ready to enroll constituents starting October 2013, and go into implementation January 14.

Now, all that the heavily Republican state governments hold onto is a Supreme Court ruling that states do not have to expand Medicaid plans.

Otherwise, the deadline of December 14 sets up an ultimatum: states must make their own exchanges, collaborate with the national government on one, or allow the national government to set up one.

Most notable is Texas governor Rick Perry’s refusal to comply. “This is a federally-mandated exchange with rules dictated by Washington,” He says in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebeliu a day before the former November 16 deadline. “It would not be fiscally responsible to put hard-working Texans on the financial hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not even been written.”

Twenty-five percent of all uninsured Americans, or 6.2 million people, reside in Texas, making it the state with the highest proportion of citizens without health insurance.

Issues, as many Republicans have raised in the past, include the encroachment of the federal government, possibility of high premiums and how spending and taxes will be affected.

According to the New York Times, Exit polls show that half of America wants either parts of or the whole legislation repealed. As a result, some analysts suggest that the federal government raise awareness about how the Affordable Care Act works and what it can do for citizens. “There is still a tremendous amount of disinformation out there,” said Jeff Goldsmith, a health industry analyst based in Virginia. “If you actually are going to implement this law, people need to know what’s in it — not just the puppies-and-ice-cream parts, but ‘Here are the broader social changes intended and how they can help you.’”

As three years of debate have pointed out, there are many concerns that Mr. Obama and Congress will have to address. “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty,” he said during his acceptance speech. “We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.”

According to the Washington Post, Republican states like Oklahoma, there is a glimmer of bipartisanship. “We are confident we’ve kept our options open at this point and are going to make a decision based on what’s best…” says Alex Weintz, Communications Director for the Oklahoma government. “During this process, the governor has continued to talk with health care experts in Oklahoma so that if we were to decide to do a state-based exchange … we would have the capability, we hope, of doing so.”

For more information on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, visit ct.gov/hix.

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