Wassail to You, Obamacare

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This being the season of good will, it seems appropriate to raise a wassail to the Affordable Care Act.

Why a wassail? According to the Oxford English Dictionary that sits upon my electronic desktop, the word “wassail” dates to Old Norse and means, “a toast used to drink a person’s health, a customary pledge in early English times.”

Language purists may feel obliged to point out that Obamacare is not a person, but in our post-Citizens United culture apparently things have changed. After all, if the conservative majority on the Supreme Court can personify corporations, this columnist gets to personify Obamacare. And given the gloomy reports about Obamacare’s prognosis in the media, I thought to take another look at the patient.

Covered California, our state’s health care exchange, has been lauded as a bright spot in the new system. I spoke with a 29-year-old Corona del Mar resident, a self-employed single mother, who had recently tried to purchase health insurance through Covered California.

“I went online to affordablecare.com, clicked on my state, and went to the Covered California site,” she said. “It took about 45 minutes to an hour to sign up. It was pretty self-explanatory.” The only glitch she found was that she couldn’t locate the link to send the completed form electronically, so she sent it snail mail. She had been paying a little over $200 a month for an Anthem policy; she will now pay $90.56 a month (augmented by a subsidy based on income – she had to include proof of income with her application) for a Blue Shield Silver 87 PPO.

Reports are that Covered California is working well, if not perfectly.

“Medi-Cal Enrollment Surging Via Covered California” ran a December 2 headline in “California Healthline.” “143,608 people will likely receive Medi-Cal coverage as a result of contacting Covered California,” reported Anthony Cava of the DHCS…We are very pleased with this surge of interest and the momentum we are seeing in consumer awareness.”

Regarding consumer awareness, I emailed Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, who declared his commitment to his constituents: “Informing [them] how the new law [a]ffects them is critical for their understanding of their health care options.”

Mansoor, who held an October forum on the ACA, added, “As we get closer to the January 1st deadline I will continue my efforts to keep California informed with the best available resources.”

Mansoor also wrote that throughout 2013 he had fielded “countless questions and concerns from the people I represent regarding the Affordable Care Act. In response I had partnered with my colleagues in August in launching a website, ‘Covering Health Care California’ as part of the on-going effort to inform Californians on the ACA implementation in California.”

Mansoor’s colleagues are part of the Assembly Republican Caucus, according to the new website, which I recently visited. Its home page is straightforward, excepting the two links to negative pieces (an op-ed: “You Also Can’t Keep Your Doctor”) and a column: “Half a million Californians could lose their health care under Obamacare next year”).

Language purists will be interested to see that the GOP’s choice of website name coveringhealthcareca.com is confusingly close to the official website: coveredca.com.

They will also note the GOP site’s selective use of information and how it’s spun to scare the knickers off their constituents.

And why the need for a special, partisan website?

I’ve always liked Allan Mansoor and understand his dilemma. As salon.com recently put it so well, Republican politicians face a “[m]oral conundrum: When Healthcare.gov actually starts working, GOP will have to choose between politics or their constituents’ health”

The same goes, of course, for Covered California. One would hope – no, make that expect – no, make that demand that with the ACA declared constitutional that all lawmakers would commit themselves to working together to ensure that the act does what it was intended to do: Extend healthcare throughout this country.

Now that would be worth toasting.


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