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Time to inform, not denounce


Rev. Jonalu Johnstone July 31st, 2013

Our Oklahoma officials don’t shy from grandstanding complaints about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Attorney General Scott Pruitt continues his futile attempt to have it declared unconstitutional. Gov. Mary Fallin refuses to accept our tax dollars back from Washington, D.C., to cover Oklahomans most in need of health coverage. Insurance Commissioner John Doak calls the ACA a “disaster,” and although his agency has received a federal grant to inform citizens, little seems to be happening to do so.

If state officials put as much energy into educating the public about the ACA as they do into denouncing it, folks might understand the law. Approximately 600,000 Oklahomans go without health insurance, most of them employed, many of them raising children.

They are criticized for using emergency rooms, yet those doing the criticizing don’t seem interested in educating them about options that will exist through the ACA. Beginning Oct. 1, individuals and small businesses can purchase insurance (effective Jan. 1, 2014) from private insurers in a competitive marketplace.

Regardless of how one feels about the ACA, it’s the law. What’s more, Oklahoma citizens benefit, particularly in reducing the need for us to fight insurance companies for coverage.

Provisions that already have kicked in are popular. Young adults can be covered on their parents’ policies. Children can no longer be excluded from coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Insurance cannot be canceled because of honest mistakes, and a right of appeal is guaranteed. No lifetime limits can be set, thereby helping sick patients keep their insurance and preventing bankruptcies. The shift to electronic records is encouraged.

So far, 264,000 Oklahomans have gotten $20 million back from their insurers, and 49,000 young people benefited by staying on their parents’ insurance in 2011.

Other provisions that have yet to take effect, such as the end of preexisting conditions for adults, will be as popular. Gradually, physicians will be reimbursed based more on keeping people healthy than on specific procedures. The act encourages private-sector innovation to find better and cheaper ways to create healthy outcomes for everyone.

Oklahomans who are currently uninsured, or who are insured under Insure Oklahoma, which will end in December, need information about how to shop the exchange. Those who are up to 400 percent of the poverty level (in 2010, $88,000 for a family of four) can qualify for tax credits — money taken dollar for dollar off tax bills — to assist their purchase of health insurance. The tax credits are on a sliding scale based on both income and number of children, so it’s family-friendly. Navigators, funded through grants, will be available to help people through the system.

You can check healthcare.gov or call 800-318-2596 to learn more.

It’s time for our state officials to acknowledge that the ACA is law, and to help citizens learn more about it so we can make informed decisions about our health care.


Johnstone, program minister for OKC’s First Unitarian Church, co-chairs the VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) Health Care Team.



Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.

 
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