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
    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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora