Tag Archives: Obamacare

3.3 million nationwide and more than 5,000 Alaskans signed up for ObamaCare

From the Washington Post:

The latest enrollment data from the Obama administration show that 3.3 million people have signed up for private health insurance through federal and state insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. This figure represents all enrollment from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1. It includes both people who have and have not paid their first month’s premium. Of those people, 1,146,100 selected their health insurance plans in January, meaning there was a 53 percent increase enrollment last month alone.

This includes more than 5,000 Alaskans.


I signed up for ObamaCare. It wasn’t scary, it worked and it’s affordable.

Obamacare I finally got it together, coinciding with the federal government getting it together, to sign up for ObamaCare. Unlike a few months ago, when the site wasn’t working and frustration took hold, I actually got it done today, with the help of a broker from Enroll Alaska, about whom I can’t say enough good things. It took about 45 minutes. It was stress free. It worked.

The most surprising thing for me was how relatively affordable the policy was. Where I used to work, the deductible was $2500 and the premiums were about $770 a month. And that was about half of what I would be paying on the private market. The policy I will have now through Premera, thanks to ObamaCare, is about $545 a month, without tax credits or any kind of government help. The deductible is $2000.

If you make less than 400 percent of the poverty level in Alaska– $57,400 a year for a single person or $117,760 for a family of four—you will qualify for subsidies.

To put this in perspective: The state is paying roughly $1400 a month in premiums for every state worker with a deductible anywhere from $300 to $600.

In other words, the policy I signed up for today is $845 less a month than the state pays a month to insure its workers. Let me repeat:  $545 month is pure private market money, without any government subsides.

It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever been able to buy affordable healthcare on the private market. And I’m not alone.

Because of the mess of the ObamaCare roll-out, everything that is claimed to be wrong about the health care system has been saddled on the back of this legislation, and now is being used as political propaganda. The politicians who are making the noise are not subject to the cruelties of the private health insurance market. They have government funded insurance. They have tax payer funded insurance. They are simply unaware of how nearly impossible it was for many to get affordable insurance unless you worked for government or for a big corporation. And they certainly seem unaware of the grinding fear and frustrations, of the millions of stories of bankruptcy and financial ruin, all of which was the experience of the healthcare system for so many.

Sure, there’s probably lots about the healthcare law that needs to be fixed. But as I’ve written before, the more people that have the kind of experience that I had today, the more people are going to wonder why so many politicians are hellbent on getting rid of a policy that has made such an enormous difference in their lives.

The deadline to sign up for insurance to start Jan. 1 is Dec. 23.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Walker fires back at Parnell over Medicaid. ‘Debate me’ he says.

15526075_mIn a Facebook post, independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker fired back at Gov. Sean Parnell over what Walker said was a misrepresentation of his support of Obamacare. Last week, Parnell’s campaign manager Jerry Gallagher sent out a fundraising email, calling Democrat challenger Byron Mallott and Walker “two peas in a pod” when it comes to supporting Obamacare.

“Two peas in a pod? How about Parnell and Gallagher as two oil industry lobbyists?” Walker wrote. Gallagher worked with Parnell at ConocoPhillips, where they were both lobbyists.

Walker wrote that while Obamacare isn’t the answer to the country’s health care issues, he did support accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid and thereby insuring up to 40,000 Alaskans through federal funds.

“By rejecting the expansion, Parnell in fact, supports ‘Obamacare; by forcing uninsured Alaskans into the ACA exchanges,” Walker wrote. “I continue to have two words for you, Governor Parnell. ‘Debate me.'”

Here’s the Walker’s post:

Not only is Governor Parnell misrepresenting why he has thrust Alaska into deficit spending, in a desperate attempt he is also misrepresenting my position on “Obamacare” (ACA). In Facebook posts and donation letter statements by his fellow ConocoPhillips lobbyist/campaign manager, Jerry Gallagher, Parnell claims Byron Mallot and I are “two peas in a pod” supporting “Obamacare”. (Two peas in a pod? How about Parnell and Gallagher as two oil industry lobbyists?) Parnell is pulling a play from Gov. Hickel’s playbook when he ran a successful “two peas in a pod” campaign against his two opponents in his Independent run for governor. I knew Wally Hickel. Wally Hickel was a friend of mine and Governor Parnell is no Wally Hickel. Hickel always put Alaska’s interests first.

Is our health care system broken? Yes. Is ACA the answer? No. But in agreement with the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and other fiscal conservatives, once ACA became law, I supported Medicaid expansion with the caveat of continued federal funding. My support is due to the sheer economics of Alaskans paying for the expansion in federal taxes and increased premiums if we reject the expansion, the creation of 4,000 new Alaskan jobs, billions of dollars flowing into our communities from the expansion and lower cost coverage for 40,000+ Alaskans. By rejecting the expansion, Parnell in fact, supports “Obamacare” by forcing uninsured Alaskans into the ACA exchanges.

Stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes, Governor. Alaskans are smarter and deserve better than this. I continue to have two words for you, Governor Parnell. ‘Debate me.’

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


New attack ad: Alaska woman would have done it better

Alaska girls kick assThe New York Times is reporting that the woman who is attacking Sen. Mark Begich on healthcare in a Koch brothers’ funded commercial isn’t a real Alaskan. She is actually an actress who lives in Maryland, which likely came as a surprise to few who watched the ad. She simply didn’t have an Alaskan vibe. (Though I chickened out on saying so in my piece about the ad earlier today, lest she be a recent transplant who hadn’t yet shed her Outside suburban skin.)

The actress’s name is Connie Browman, and she has appeared in other commercials. Ironically, one of them touted the importance of regular mammograms. Under ObamaCare, the healthcare bill that Browman says in the commercial, among the 14 free preventative service benefits for women are mammograms.

“We don’t want to lose even one person to breast cancer. Which is why regular, digital mammogram screening is so important,” she tells the audience, using that same, earnest voice she used in the Alaska commercials. “Senator Begich didn’t listen. How can I ever trust him again?” she said, in the background the kind of kitchen that I want to set up camp in.

This is not to say that Begich shouldn’t in some part be held responsible for the mess that ObamaCare has become. It’s just that if you’re going to try to pass off a Marylander as an Alaskan in an attack ad, you should at least try to make her look a little cold, or forlorn, or tough, and always pretty, of course.

It’s a rookie mistake often made by heavy-footed Outside consultants who don’t understand the political landscape of Alaskans, say nothing of the kind of kitchen they cook in.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Robert Gibbs on ObamaCare exchange: ‘excruciatingly embarrassing’

I’ve been a supporter of ObamaCare, but it’s now been 14 days since the federal healthcare exchange has launched and it’s only been able to handle signing up more than a handful of people, at most. It’s probably the worst roll out of any core domestic presidential initiative in history. Former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called it “excruciatingly embarrassing.”  It’s more than that. It’s a stunning debacle.


Running out of patience with the healthcare exchange

So-called open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is on its fourth day. And still technical “glitches” abound. When I go to the federal exchange website, it tells me to wait. And it keeps me waiting, and waiting. I make breakfast and I’m still waiting. I talk to a friend and I’m still waiting.

I just checked again: “We have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on this page,” some federal bureaucrat tells me, one among the hundreds of thousands of people who are desperate to see if at long last, I will be able to afford insurance on the private market

This is what ObamaCare looks like. Is this the future of healthcare? Yikes.

In a telephonic town hall on Wednesday night, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich urged people to be patient with the problems. He said that he’s going through the same frustrations. He said that had the state built its own exchange instead of relying on the federal government, things might have gone more smoothly. I have my doubts. If the state set up its own exchange, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services would have been in charge. And if their testimony in front of legislators is any indication, they’re a model for government dysfunction.

Miracle! I’ve just created an account. For security purposes, I get to choose questions like my parents’ anniversary, my favorite food, my favorite pet. Except I don’t know my parents’ anniversary. What kind of daughter doesn’t remember when their parents got married? Then again, they’ve been divorced for more than 20 years. Speaking of divorce. Don’t go there. Think about your favorite food, instead.

This morning, my favorite food as I waited to sign up for the exchanges was chia seeds and oatmeal, but last night I convinced myself that it was a kale salad from a bag at Costco. Which one’s really, truly my favorite?

Moment of truth: I don’t like either. Chia and oatmeal are slimy and kale is bitter. The only thing worse than lying to yourself about what you like to eat is having to admit that you’re lying to yourself… I do love the sausage and cinnamon sugar toast that my mother used to make for me before she and my father divorced.

Divorce! There is no worse word than divorce.

Except I’d like to say it over and over right now to the federal bureaucrat who’s making me wait to sign up for the health insurance plan that I was promised, and that I’ve spent no small amount of time and political capital evangelizing for.

Then there’s the favorite pet issue. Good lord, what federal agent of guilt thought up these security questions?

If you must know, and they must, the favorite pet is the cat, who went with the ex-husband, as will the health insurance come January.

I’m still waiting. I suspected there might be problems with the system, but I was comforted when I learned that private businesses, like Enroll Alaska, an affiliate of Northrim Bank, was going to get into the act. Banks are efficient. Bankers take care of things. If I were really hungry I’d go to a banker. If there was any way to straighten out this mess, they’d do it.

Enroll’s most recent Facebook post says this:

The Federal Marketplace/Exchange is technically open but none of our agents have been able to get into the system to run quotes. Please bare with us as we work through the technical difficulties and we’ll be sure to let everyone know once the system is fully functional. Thank you for your patience!

It’s now 2 p.m. The feds are still telling me to wait. The morning guilts are gone. They’re replaced by a slow, steady anger for making me go through all of this for nothing. I’m done being funny. I’m giving up for the day. I, and no doubt, thousands like me.

This better be fixed soon, or we’re going to divorce it forever.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Alaskan politicians playing games with our money and our health

19392277_mAs of October 1, the federal government is shut down. Driving the shutdown are some Republicans intent on repealing or delaying the Affordable Care Act. Come January roughly 66,000 Alaskans, some even with preexisting conditions, will be able to buy affordable health insurance on the private market for the first time ever.

That includes me. According to a broker, I’ll probably be paying about $500 a month for a plan with a $1200 deductible.

For me that’s a great deal. If not for the new health care law, I would be paying about $1500 a month for such insurance.

That’s a $1000 a month difference. That’s real money. That’s a mortgage. That’s money that can be used to support private Alaska businesses.

U.S. Rep. Don Young voted on Monday yet again to delay the program for a year. Senate hopeful Joe Miller would go further. He would repeal the whole thing. The other Republican hopeful, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has indicated that he would do the same.

For decades, Young has been the beneficiary of the best health insurance available, which has been highly subsidized by the tax payers. He’s now on Medicare. However, in 2009, the plan most favored by members of Congress was Blue Cross Blue Shield, which covered a family for about $1,030 a month. Taxpayers paid $700 of that.

Young, and all the members of Congress, also have government-funded private doctors on the Hill available to them.

As a veteran of our armed services, Miller is eligible for tax funded healthcare.

As a state of Alaska official, Treadwell doesn’t have to pay anything for his insurance. The state health insurance plan is better than almost any plan available on the private market. And, it’s all funded by the citizens of Alaska.

Let me repeat that: As a state worker, Treadwell doesn’t have to pay any monthly premiums for a plan that’s better than nearly any plan normal Alaskans get or can buy themselves.

Funny how politicians always seem to know how to get theirs.

If the health care act is delayed and I can’t sign up for it, I’ll be spending roughly more than $12,000 than I would otherwise. And if only 10,000 Alaskans of comparable health, age and income sign up under ObamaCare, it will save us a collective $120 million.

That’s more than Alaska makes off of taxes from mining, cigarettes and alcohol combined.

The federal government shut down at midnight while the House continues to leverage the budget continuing resolution as a means of delaying ObamaCare. Federal workers all across the state will be affected. So will the elderly and the disabled. The stock market has already fallen as the result of instability. Most of Alaskans who have retirement accounts have at least some of it in the stock market. We’ve all lost money that we’ll probably never get back.

The health care law will not be delayed. Obama will not allow it.

So what’s happening is this: Some Republican politicians are playing partisan games with our money and our health.

I’m going to go to a broker tomorrow and sign up for health insurance through the exchanges, which will be available on January 1. For the first time, I’ll be able to buy affordable, private health insurance. I won’t be getting as good of a deal as Young, Treadwell or Miller.

But I won’t complain. I’m going to have better and more affordable health insurance. And I’ll pass on some of what I’m going to save to Alaska businesses.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Northrim Bank finds business in ObamaCare

Obamacare At least one Alaskan private enterprise believes that there’s money to be made in the new health care law. Northrim Benefits Group, an affiliate of Northrim Bank, has started a service called Enroll Alaska that will help guide individuals through the new insurance marketplaces. Those marketplaces, or exchanges, are a key part of the Affordable Care Act, and will be up and running on October 1.

Depending on whom you ask and how it’s defined, anywhere from 66,000 to 139,000 Alaskans are uninsured or underinsured. Enroll Alaska hopes to be the broker of choice to as many of these as possible.

In the process, the business will also be educating Alaskans on the exchange, a role that our state government has appeared to have opted out of.

Agencies and nonprofits are also doing their part. In July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services handed out more than $1,800,000 in grants to 25 Alaska health centers operating 168 sites to enroll the uninsured. And on August 15, HSS awarded another grant of $600,000 to be split between United Way and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for outreach.

In truth, however, you don’t need any of these services. You can sign up yourself here, and it doesn’t appear to be overly complicated.

Here’s Northrim’s announcement in full:

ANCHORAGE, AK- August 19, 2013- Northrim Benefits Group (NBG) is proud to announce the formation of Enroll Alaska. This new division of NBG is focused on individual health coverage for the nearly 66,000 uninsured or underinsured Alaskans. Enroll Alaska will help guide individuals through the new insurance marketplaces that have been created with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help those who may qualify for immediate tax subsidies.

Starting in 2014, there is a federal mandate that all individuals have health insurance, whether through an employer policy or purchased through a Federally Facilitated Marketplace. Individuals with household incomes between 100-400% of Federal Poverty Level may be eligible for premium assistance via a federal tax subsidy. Enroll Alaska will help individuals determine if they qualify for a federal tax subsidy and select a health insurance plan that is right for them and their family.

Enroll Alaska will have locations throughout the state to help individuals and families during open enrollment, which runs from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Enroll Alaska will be the go-to resource for questions regarding the ACA. Information can be found at www.enrollingalaska.com or by calling, 1-855-385-5550.

Correction: Northrim Benefits group is an affiliate of Northrim Bank, not a fully owned subsidiary.
Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Obamacare: the politics of delay and denial

Obamacare On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Don Young voted on a bill to give President Obama the authority to delay, by a year, the employer health care mandate portion of Obamacare. The mandate was to go into effect in 2014, and would have required businesses that employ more than 50 full-time workers to provide affordable insurance, or else be subject to a fine.

This doesn’t mean that Young approves of Obamacare. Young, who has for more than four decades been the beneficiary of some of the best tax funded health care available, has been one of the bill’s staunchest critics. In a release on Tuesday, he called it “one of the worst bills Congress has ever passed,” and promised to continue to advocate for full repeal.

Many critics of Obamacare crowed after the administration announced the delay in the mandate. Others, however, saw a greater game at work, one that could ultimate strengthen the program.

Now that employer mandates are off the table, at least temporarily, the thought is that people are increasingly going to be signing up for individual coverage. Such coverage was always available to the individual, but often times it was too costly, overly burdensome to get, and many were denied due to pre-existing conditions. However, insurance exchanges, one of the key provisions of Obamacare, are still set to be up and running by the end of this year, and individual coverage could be cheaper and easier to get under those exchanges.

Recently, California announced that such exchanges could cut rates for individual insurance by up 29 percent for some consumers. And on Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that New Yorkers who buy individual policies will most likely see their premiums cut by half in 2014.

Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to buy that plan for as little as $308 monthly. The costs could be lower with federal subsidies.

That consumers might find individual health care insurance affordable makes Obamacare foes nervous. The public, once it tries it, actually might like it. They might actually be able to afford the kind of insurance that state and federal officials get. Such a notion is anathema to many, including Young and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, as well as other Republican governors. Parnell, among others, has refused to help set up those exchanges. The feds are doing it for Alaska, no matter that if the state cooperated, the exchanges would be better for residents.

Apparently, Parnell and others would leave uninsured Alaskans uninsured in the hopes that they can force Obamacare to fail.

Some Republican governors however, seem to have the health of their residents more in mind than partisanship. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, said that he’s not fighting Obamacare because it was in the best interest of New Jersey for its residents to have access to affordable healthcare.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Healthcare hearing leaves things unsaid

Alaska state Rep. Lora Reinbold, who chairs the Administrative Regulation Review Committee, held an interesting if unbalanced hearing on the effect the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is going to have on Alaska.

“Is Obamacare the best or worst thing to happen to the U.S.? That’s what our hearing is about; we want to learn the facts and clarify what is currently known about the program’s effects in Alaska,” she wrote in a press release announcing the hearing, two days before it was held.

Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River, is not a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and is a cosponsor of a joint legislative resolution to call on Congress to delay the implementation of the act.

Those testifying, all invited by the committee chair, included Deborah Erickson, the executive director of Alaska’s Health Care Commission, Jeff Davis who is president of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Division of Insurance Director Bret Kolb.

Dr. Ilona Farr, who is a primary care physician and who has been one of the state’s most vocal opponents of the ACA, also testified. She was the only health care provider who did so.

Alaska has the third highest cost of health care in the world and its citizens pay among the highest premiums rates for insurance in the country. At about 120,000 uninsured Alaskans, the state has among the highest rates of uninsured per capita in the country.

The committee didn’t invite patient advocates or anybody from the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, or any of their members including Providence Hospital or Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Nobody from the public testified.

With the absence of those voices, it was difficult to get a balanced perspective on the Act and how it will affect such people and institutions, say nothing of what it would do to such people and institutions if Gov. Sean Parnell declines to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

It was a topic that those presenting only touched on, which was also surprising given that it is one of the few things about the Act in which the state has a voice.

In the other major area that the state could have had say—health exchanges—Parnell  ceded the state’s voice and has allowed the feds to build Alaska’s exchange, which is supposed to be up and running by September. (Read more about exchanges here.)

The major take-away from the hearing, based on those testifying, was that health care costs are going to rise under the Act.

Farr, as she has done in the past, also spent much of her time talking about the negative impact that onerous regulations were going to have on doctors.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com