A major portion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) went from concept to reality on Tuesday as the 50 states brought their health exchanges online.
There were (and will continue to be) glitches. As hundreds of thousands of users tried for the first time to get information about the array of health care plans available, New York’s “State of Health” website and phone line were bogged down and at times unreachable Tuesday. But New Yorkers have until Dec. 15 to enroll in a plan, so there’s time yet to get answers.
Some critics who are determined to see Obamacare fail will point to this as a fatal flaw in the multi-phase plan, which will eventually require all employers with 50 workers or more to provide health insurance.
But let’s not jump to that conclusion just yet.
Glitches aside, Tuesday was a significant day for anyone who is interested in separating fact from fiction when it comes to Obamacare. And that should be, well, pretty much everybody.
For people like Holley White of Hamden, Tuesday was the first chance to see what “affordable care” might actually mean.
“It’s hard for small-business people to be able to afford health insurance, but we’re going to sign up for it now,” White said last week. “We’ve generally been healthy, and when we’ve had problems, we’ve been able to deal with it. But this is going to be something we’re going to be looking at, for sure.”
Tuesday was also a big day for local employers, such as Oneonta Block Co., where vice president Rebecca Lloyd said her company has been gearing up for months to comply with the ACA.
Lloyd said last week that she and her employees were waiting to see what the most affordable options would be.
“We have no idea because the exchange hasn’t opened yet,” she said.
Well, now it has. And it’s time for everyone — employers and individuals alike — to set aside all the rumors, theories, predictions and speculation about Obamacare and look instead at the facts.
Here are a few facts: The law requires everyone who has to file a tax return to have health insurance by Jan. 1. Those who don’t will have to pay a penalty. So each of us has to decide which is more affordable — buying health insurance, or paying this fine.
Here’s another fact: The more people buy into the plans offered through the exchange, the more cost-effective they will become — particularly if young, healthy people choose to buy coverage.
We can’t tell anyone what choice to make. But we can ask everyone to make an informed choice based on the facts. We have nothing to lose, and much to gain, by finding out what’s out there.