Nothing to fear as Obamacare arrives

September 29, 2013 

Usually the year’s scariest day comes on the last day of October – Halloween – but this year it comes on the first day. On Oct. 1, the creation that Republicans could not drive a stake through comes into the lives of millions of Americans. It’s the first day they can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. To hear Republicans tell it, Oct. 1 will end the nation as Americans know it. It will bring a colossal increase in government intrusion and red tape while driving up the costs of medical care and sending the job market back into decline.

If they’re right, it will soon be clear. If they’ve become hysterically frightened of something that will help many people, that will also become clear. That is one of the beauties of the day the opponents decry. We will soon be beyond speculation, accusation and conjecture. After years of hearing doomsday scenarios and watching House Republicans vote to repeal the ACA some 40 times, people will get to see for themselves whether they should fear or celebrate President Obama’s signature accomplishment.

The actual insurance coverage won’t begin until Jan. 1, but starting Tuesday people who want affordable insurance will be able to start shopping online on state exchanges. The young and healthy may face increases in what they pay now – especially those who are rolling the dice and going without insurance – but most people should see a wide variety of plans at prices they can afford. Those who can’t afford it will be eligible for government subsidies that bring rates within reach.

Given the flood of scary scenarios raised by the Republicans and the deceitful TV ads put out by Koch brothers-backed groups, it’s fair to say the ACA doesn’t face a challenge of high expectations. That may help the new program win over people who find it’s not so bad after all and actually a help. But still it’s unfortunate that this great federal effort to address a deep problem that has long resisted a cure is being rolled out amid such a bitter atmosphere. Once Americans tackled the country’s big problems together. Not this time.

Many Republicans are rooting for it to be “a train wreck” and are yearning for a chance to say “I told you so.” But Democrats and the Obama administration have pressed on with the massive and complex changes, and it now looks likely that the ACA will indeed work and will yet become popular. Early surveys of state insurance exchanges show appealing premium prices that will offer relief to many who struggle to pay for insurance or even find insurance period. And there are encouraging signs that the controls imposed by the new law and the competition to sign up millions of new customers are bending down the cost curve for medical care, a change that could save the government huge sums in entitlement costs.

So Tuesday put on your Obama Halloween mask early and celebrate. Obamacare is here. There’s nothing to fear and plenty to cheer.

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