News / USA

President Obama Takes Health Pitch to California After Rate Row

US President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to San Jose, California June 7, 2013
US President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to San Jose, California June 7, 2013
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters

President Barack Obama insisted on Friday his healthcare overhaul is already proving worthwhile as he promoted the plan in California, where an argument is raging over whether it is living up to its name as the Affordable Care Act.
 

"If you're one of 6 million Californians or tens of millions Americans who don't currently have health insurance, you'll soon be able to buy quality, affordable care just like everybody else,'' he said in San Jose, California.


A part of the 2010 law that requires insurers to spend 80 percent of premiums on healthcare or reimburse money to consumers has prompted insurance companies to give rebates to consumers of $45 million this year in California, he added.
 

"All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act,'' Obama said.


Support for the reform in California, the nation's most populous state, is seen as crucial to the success of Obama's signature domestic policy when millions of uninsured Americans are able to choose health plans beginning on Oct. 1.


At issue are prices for the new plans proposed by insurance companies and made public late last month. Supporters of "Obamacare'' said the prices were lower than expected and hailed them as an early sign of success, but opponents quickly took issue and said they would make insurance more expensive than what is currently on the market.
 

Obama said once California and other states who agreed to

participate have fully functional insurance marketplaces, this system will offer consumers a choice of healthcare plans that should drive costs down.
 

People with incomes well below the poverty level will do well since they will be eligible for government subsidies of their coverage, said Joseph Antos, a health policy economist with conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.
 

"It's going to be the ones further up who end up paying,'' he

said. "It's also the taxpayer who is going to end up picking up the cost of the subsidies that are going to be offered nationwide.''


It may take months before Americans can fully gauge the value of the plans they will be offered in October. The premium rates figuring into the California argument are only preliminary, while other details, such as the number of doctors in each plan, are unknown.
 

With 6 million uninsured residents, California has been one

of the quickest states to develop its own health insurance exchange. Healthcare advocates hope that as many as 1 million uninsured Californians will sign up for the new plans in the first year and lead other states to do the same.
 

"It's a large market and a positive media market for the

president,'' said Dan Mendelson, chief executive officer of research firm Avalere Health. "He's going to get coverage when he goes to California. And what they need to do right now is amp up the visibility around implementation.''


The federal government aims to enroll about 7 million Americans in health insurance plans through the exchanges, a senior administration official said in a briefing before the speech.


Covered California, the California state exchange, said on May 23 that it had given initial approval to 13 different companies to sell plans, from big names like WellPoint Inc's Anthem Blue Cross of California to smaller players such as Health Net Inc and Molina Healthcare Inc.
 

Rates would be from 2 percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans, according to state exchange officials. The cost to a 40-year-old would be between $40 to $300 per month for a midlevel plan, depending on the person's income level and subsidies.
 

"Obviously, there is more work to do on affordability,'' said Anthony Wright, executive director of consumer advocacy coalition Health Access California. "Even in the best of circumstances, health insurance isn't cheap.''


Rate Shock

Billed as a success by the state and federal governments and health economists when it was announced on May 23, the rates have since come under fire. Healthcare policy expert and Forbes commentator Avik Roy said that prices were in fact going up as much as 146 percent for some people compared with those for individual plans for sale now in California.
 

Insurance executives and Republicans also espoused this "rate shock'' argument, which had quieted down earlier last month after low proposed premiums were released by a few other states, including Washington, Oregon and Vermont.
 

Enrollment is essential for the success of the insurance exchanges as the government seeks to get millions of Americans to sign up and provide a diverse enough risk pool to make the insurance competitive. The government will pay subsidies to people who earn less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level.


At least 2.6 million people on the exchanges need to be young and healthy for the exchanges to succeed, the senior administration official said.
 

In California, about 2.6 million people will have incomes low enough to qualify for government subsidies and nearly half of those individuals are Latino, the official said. Efforts are now under way in the state through on-the-ground partnerships to inform people about the exchanges.
 

"It's premature right now for people to be figuring out whether they can afford this,'' said Linda Blumberg, health economist at the Urban Institute.
 

Marketing for the new insurance plans in California and other states running their own exchanges is due to take off in July. Blumberg hopes that will be when information about the benefits of these insurance products becomes clearer: that they provide essential benefits like maternity coverage, that they cannot deny customers based on preexisting conditions, and that there is financial assistance.


Those and other changes under the health law, such as men and women paying the same price on the exchange, are some of the reasons why it is difficult to compare California's announced prices for 2014 with currently available individual plans.
 

In addition, there are up to four tiers of health exchange products under Obama's health law, starting with a minimum amount of coverage set by the government and climbing higher.


"The policies are different - generally more comprehensive,'' said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "They offer better coverage, less out-of-pocket costs.''

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid