If Republican extortionists in Congress get their way, the federal government could shut down tomorrow. But the state insurance exchanges created under Obamacare to help millions of uninsured consumers in Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere find health coverage they can afford will still launch.
That isn’t the outcome that GOP lawmakers and their Tea Party cronies, who are eager to hold the country hostage to their last-ditch quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act, want. But it is a boon to Ohioans, both individuals and small-business owners, who now can turn to a new, competitive private market to buy health insurance of reasonable quality at a reasonable cost.
More than 1.3 million uninsured Ohioans are eligible to buy coverage on the new exchange. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says Ohioans will have a choice of 46 plans in the state’s marketplace.
These plans are labeled bronze, silver, or gold, based on the level of coverage they offer. Young consumers also can opt for a bare-bones plan that insures them against catastrophic illness.
Many Ohioans will be eligible for tax credits and other subsidies. Under the law, insurers cannot deny anyone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
HHS calculates the average premium for the lowest-cost silver plan in Ohio will be $304 a month. For the cheapest bronze plan, the monthly premium is $263.
According to the HHS analysis, a 27-year-old Ohioan who earns $25,000 a year would pay $110 a month for the cheapest bronze plan, and $145 for the second-cheapest silver plan, after tax credits. A typical family of four making $50,000 a year would pay $156 a month for the cheapest bronze plan after credits. The analysis does not include specific figures for the Toledo market.
Such rate quotes appear at odds with the dire warnings offered by Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who heads the state Insurance Department. Last June, Ms. Taylor predicted that health insurance premiums on the individual market would rise by an average of 88 percent from last year’s rates once Obamacare kicked in.
Gov. John Kasich’s administration continues to oppose the Affordable Care Act, even though Mr. Kasich is properly calling on state lawmakers to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program under Obamacare. But the administration is not taking part in operating the state insurance exchange, leaving that job to Washington.
Worse, a new report concludes that Ohio lawmakers and regulators are working actively to interfere with enrollment in the state’s exchange. As in other states, the Ohio exchange features so-called navigators — representatives of nonprofit groups who are trained to help consumers sort out their coverage options.
A study released last week by Health Care for America Now, a coalition that favors Obamacare, says that state government has enacted unnecessary rules to hamper the work of Ohio navigators. These rules impose restrictions on what navigators can tell consumers about enrolling in the exchange and the benefits that are available. They also include superfluous requirements for background checks and fingerprinting, the report says.
The study notes that Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center planned to help enroll uninsured people in the Ohio exchange at three locations. Instead, the hospital returned $124,000 in federal grant money for that effort, citing state restrictions that took effect in July.
Despite the attempts by Republicans in Washington and Columbus to sabotage Obamacare instead of working to improve it, the law isn’t going away. The new exchanges can shield middle-class, working-class, and poor families from risks to their lives, health, and savings caused by a lack of insurance. Whatever the obstacles, that goal must be met.