To the Editor:
Dan Alexander’s column on the Affordable Care Act (ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare) was greatly disappointing. He frequently espouses the viewpoint that politicians need to overcome their ideological differences and work for the good of the people, but he doesn’t seem to hold himself to the same standard. Rather than serving as a mouthpiece for right-wing propaganda, he could have provided information that might help people improve their lives. Has this newspaper ever published an article informing its readers of their new options and benefits under the ACA and the steps they need to take to pursue them? If so, I haven’t seen it.
Because New York has its own health exchange, none of us have to deal with the federal website. New York’s website is http://www.healthbenefitexchange.ny.gov/. Mr. Alexander claimed that the ACA is taking away our freedom of choice, but when I registered to sign up for a plan I found myself with dozens of options, most of which included all of the local health care providers I looked up. I was a little overwhelmed with all the choices, but the website provided helpful comparative information, giving me more confidence in my decision than I’ve ever had before when selecting an insurance plan. My monthly premiums are now less than one-tenth of what they were last year. My monthly prescription costs are 60 percent of what they were when I was on employer-sponsored insurance.
The fact that Mr. Alexander could so cavalierly dismiss the concept that the U.S. health care system needed an overhaul prior to the ACA suggests to me that he has not had to shop for health insurance as an individual, forced to pay whatever the insurance companies decide to charge, without the bargaining power of a corporation or other group to help him.
It suggests to me that he does not have friends or family who have suffered with debilitating disease for years, unwilling to seek the treatment they need because a diagnosis might result in their insurance coverage being canceled and forever denied, there being no penalty for the insurance companies’ refusal to cover those who need care the most.
I have had both of those experiences. I have also had employer-sponsored health insurance. Each year the premiums went up and the benefits went down. Mr. Alexander would like us to believe that an example he offered of a rate increase this year is due to the ACA, but the reality is that premiums increased by almost 150 percent in the previous decade (http://kff.org/health-costs/slide/cumulative-increases-in-health-insurance-premiums-workers-contributions-to-premiums-inflation-and-workers-earnings-1999-2012/).
The deadline to sign up for insurance for 2014 is the end of this month. I encourage anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or would like to know if they can get a better deal on their insurance to go to the website. It could improve your health, your bank account and your peace of mind. As long as Obamacare is in effect, no one will ever have to worry again about having a pre-existing condition. That is life-changing.