JOPLIN, Mo. —
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been “a catastrophic success,” Judy Baker told a roomful of area Democrats on Saturday.
Baker, a former state representative and a former regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services, was the keynote speaker at the Jackson Days West Democratic Banquet held at Briarbrook Country Club.
She said she was not surprised there were some computer glitches when the program launched, since about 7 million people signed on to check out the offerings of the health care exchanges.
“Of course there were glitches,” she said. “There are glitches when Apple rolls out a new product, and nobody starts calling to get rid of it.”
As an example of some of the misinformation about the act, she cited a recent broadcast by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who sent crews to interview people on the street, asking whether they preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.
“They all said they really liked the Affordable Care Act, that it was way better,” Baker said. “There is a lot of propaganda and villainizing going on, but there’s also a lot of hope for people waiting to see a doctor.”
Baker said 80 percent of the uninsured are working people and that those with insurance pay about $1,000 in premium costs to pay for the uninsured who have to go to the emergency room for medical care.
She criticized Republicans, saying they have shut down government in an attempt to derail the measure. She said any problems in the law can be addressed without stopping its implementation. Many House Republicans have demanded curbs to Obama’s signature health care law as a condition of reopening the government.
“No law is perfect; they can tweak it. They had to tweak Medicare and Medicaid,” she said.
She said many elements of the plan already are popular, such as the portability, barring insurance companies from canceling coverage for the critically ill or those who have reached coverage limits, ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
“It allows people to buy insurance in a competitive marketplace, with costs based on income and subsidies for those with lower incomes,” she said. “If someone gets a raise, their costs will change, unlike with Medicaid, where people could get a raise and lose Medicaid, then they’d have no coverage.”
She said premium prices in insurance exchanges have come in lower than detractors have predicted and said the portability of the coverage also would give people more employment options.
“I know of one woman who’s 28 and really wants to start her own business. But she has a pre-existing condition, and before, she had been afraid to leave her job and lose her health coverage. She’s found she can get coverage for the price of a cellphone.”
More than 120 area Democrats attended the gathering and heard state Rep. Jay Swearingen, of Kansas City, announce he will be a candidate for state auditor in 2014. The office currently is held by Republican Tom Schweich.