President Obama touched on the challenges of fully implementing the Affordable Care Act during a press conference on a wide range of topics Tuesday morning.
The core measures of the ACA are set to take effect Jan. 1, when the individual insurance exchanges will become operational, Medicaid eligibility will expand and almost all Americans must have health insurance or pay a penalty on their tax return.
Skeptics have wondered whether insurance exchanges will be functioning smoothly in all 50 states, and to what degree the reluctance of officials in some states to expand Medicaid will restrict insurance coverage nationwide.
Obama noted any obstacles to implementing the law will not affect “the 85% to 90% of Americans who already have health insurance.”
Some critics, though, have expressed concern that the expansion of coverage will result in higher premiums for many customers. The thinking is that insurance companies will raise rates for the relatively young and healthy to accommodate the cost of having to insure older and sicker people.
Obama did not directly touch on the issue of premiums, but said those who have insurance are “already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they dont know it. Their insurance is more secure. Insurance companies cant drop them for bad reasons. Their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until theyre 26 years old. Theyre getting free preventive care.”
For the approximately 30 million Americans who do not have insurance or are in the individual insurance market, paying what Obama described as “exorbitant amounts for coverage that isnt that great,” the exchanges must work as envisioned.
“Even if we do everything perfectly,” he said, “there will still be glitches and bumps, and there will be stories that can be written saying, ‘Oh, look, this things not working the way its supposed to. And thats pretty much true of every government program thats ever been set up.
“But if we stay with it and we understand what our long-term objective is — making sure that in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt if they get sick and that we would rather have people getting regular checkups than going to the emergency room because they dont have healthcare — then were going to be able to drive down costs, were going to be able to improve efficiencies in the system, were going to be able to see people benefit from better healthcare, and that will save the country money as a whole over the long term.”