ACA has more successes than faults

2013-11-25T07:18:00Z ACA has more successes than faultsGuest column by JIM AHRENS
November 25, 2013 7:18 am  • 

As the former president of the Montana Hospital Association and a member of many Montana task forces on health care, I know just how sick Montana’s health care system was before the Affordable Care Act.

For decades, too many Montana families couldn’t afford health insurance. Too many seniors couldn’t pay for needed prescriptions drugs. And kids born with pre-existing conditions were plain out of luck.

It was a broken system that left Montanans one major illness or injury away from bankruptcy.

The Affordable Care Act is building a stronger health care system that will keep more Montanans healthy and out of debt. And while no health care system is perfect, there’s a lot of misinformation preventing Montanans from learning how the law will benefit you and your family.

Let’s start with the part of the law that ends discrimination for pre-existing conditions. Up to 425,000 non-elderly Montanans have some type of pre-existing condition, including 50,000 children. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition, like asthma, diabetes or acid reflux.

All of my grandchildren were born with acid reflux conditions. This is due to their genetic composition. Without the Affordable Care Act, these innocent babies would likely be excluded from health insurance coverage. Starting next year, this provision will extend to everyone.

The Affordable Care Act also prevents insurance companies from imposing arbitrary lifetime limits on health benefits. Now, cancer patients and folks suffering from chronic diseases won’t have to forgo lifesaving treatment because they can’t afford to pay out of their own pocket.

The law also supports Montana seniors by closing Medicare’s prescription drug “doughnut hole.” I know too many seniors who fell into this coverage gap. Because of the new law, Montanans with Medicare saved an average of $656 on prescription drugs in 2012.

But aside from improving Montanans’ health and reducing costs, the biggest benefit of the Affordable Care Act for all Montanans will be increasing the number of Montanans with high-quality health insurance plans.

Why is it important to you that more Montanans have health insurance? Because uninsured and underinsured people get sick and hurt, too. And when they do, they go to the hospital, which pays for their care and passes the cost onto folks with health insurance. As a result, hospitals and insurance companies charge patients and clients more. It’s a hidden tax – and one the Affordable Care Act aims to repeal.

There’s no doubt the implementation of the law has been far from perfect. The problems with the website and the confusion over health plans are frustrating. The website must be fixed, and people need straight information about what plans they qualify for and what financial help is available to them.

But for every story highlighting the law’s faults, there are many more success stories. Stories of Montanans qualifying for tax credits to get coverage for the first time in their lives. Stories of folks getting checks in the mail because the law requires insurance companies to spend on better care or issue a refund. And stories of individuals living healthier lives because they got the basic, preventative health care they needed.

When I was president of the Montana Hospital Association, we tried for years to rehabilitate our health care system. Because Congress couldn’t agree on serious reform, states and hospitals fought to cut costs and negotiate new plans with insurance companies.

But our system was beyond rehabilitation. Surgery was needed. And thanks to the ACA, we’re already seeing major improvements in Montanans’ health care.

I’ve discussed health care with many Montanans and know it’s a deeply personal issue. Montanans don’t want someone telling us how to care for our families. But for years, that’s exactly what insurance companies did.

As a result, Americans spend more and get less in return from our health care system than almost every other developed country. That cannot continue. We can’t afford it.

The Affordable Care Act is already improving lives and saving many Montanans money. It’s also putting us on the path to a health care system worthy of our great country. I hope you join me in giving it a chance.

Jim Ahrens lives outside of Craig, is the former president of the Montana Hospital Association and former chairman of the National Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(26) Comments

  1. dhc
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    dhc - December 03, 2013 5:12 pm
    Spent the last two evenings on the site, still not able to complete my application. So yes, I've tried it and I'm not LYING.
  2. Sukey
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    Sukey - November 27, 2013 5:46 am
    The Obamacare website works, it worked flawlessly this week. We applied the second week of October, by calling up the insurance provider on phone. We agreed to wait to finalize the application until a few of the NORMAL GLITCHES that occur with every major software rollout were fixed. We finalized the application and have gotten a far better insurance policy than the only one we could get prior to Obamacare (that thankfully was canceled). And, yes, it costs a whole lot less. And, the website worked well. So anyone saying it doesn't work anymore IS LYING and hasn't even tried it.
  3. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - November 26, 2013 9:27 pm
    I went to the web site you put up. 1st off I can't believe you are quoting
    Michal Moore. But so be it. Mr.. Moore claims that the U.S. is the only
    "westernized" country without universal health care, {hereafter u. h. c.}

    This is the only man I have ever heard of, who has a harder time telling
    the truth than B.O. But like I said, so be it.

    Then the site shows a list of countries with u. h. c. Then the site picks
    Sri Lanka, to comment on. {I did not pick Sri Lanka}

    Quote="Sri Lanka ay be far from having a true, working u. h. c. system
    like France, but prescription drug are provided by a government-owned
    drug manufactured. This qualifies as "some sort of publicly sponsored
    u. h. c. system."

    As Kate55 -below- says, "whaddya think about S.S. and Medicare? Also
    we can add Medicaid. (Medicaid - a public health program through which
    certain medical and hospital expenses of those having no income, or low
    income, are paid for by the state and federal funds.) =(Medicare = a
    national health program through which certain medical and hospital expenses of the aged and the needy are paid for from federal, mostly S.S., funds.) Now is
    the U. S. the only "westernized" country without u. h. c.

    Me thinks you and Mr. Moore don't know what you are talking about.
  4. An Historian
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    An Historian - November 26, 2013 7:00 pm
    So, lets see... medical care for the uninsured is bad because it coast us all money ... but, ACA is good because the previously uninsured will get coverage ... with tax credits... because tax credits don't cost us anything at all... Government providence providing healthcare AND free money. That certainly can't cost the rest of us.

    The ACA is health INSURANCE, not health care. If insurance is currently out of reach for people, tax credits will partially cover monthly coverage costs, but NOT DEDUCTIBLES, which, when unpaid, will lead to us all paying to make up the difference AND paying for the tax credits afforded to those that can still not afford care.
  5. dhc
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    dhc - November 26, 2013 5:19 pm
    Yes, it is possible, the insurance companies have to follow the law, the law causes the increases. Pretty simple.
  6. Dubs
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    Dubs - November 26, 2013 10:44 am
    Don't know if you know this or not but Obamacare is funding the loss or several jobs in Seeley Lake by closing down the medical clinic there and making it a new medicade driven clinic for poor people. Last I heard, all the people there are getting fired as of Dec.31. If anyone has any facts about this, please post. Reason I asked is that my son's life was saved there a few years ago, they need this clinic.
  7. claudius
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    claudius - November 26, 2013 10:35 am
    @jus lost - So do I. So what? Do you grow your own wheat and corn? How about potatoes, turkeys, chickens, cattle, hogs, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, pecans, raspberries?

    Everything on your table this Thanksgiving is there, in large part, because of all the work the Ag Extension Service has done for decades. Even the stuff you grow yourself is the product of endless research and improvement funded with my tax dollars!
  8. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - November 26, 2013 9:50 am
    BTW, I grow a lot of my own food.
  9. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - November 26, 2013 9:44 am
    " We spend nearly two and a half times more per person than most other nations with poorer results in many cases -- infant mortality and longevity among them."

    Who is "we"?

    If this massively subsidized health care these countries offer is the next best thing to sliced bread, why arent Americans flocking to those countries? Even with the obama in office people from those countries you mention want to come here. Why? Mexico has universal healthcare that is said to be highly affordable, yet their citizens are clamoring to get here. If everything you say about infant mortality, and longevity is true (source?), why do they want to come here? Why arent Americans flocking to go down there...especially the retired folks?

    jus wundrin
  10. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - November 26, 2013 9:17 am
    "Try the school lunch program, since 1947.
    Try the Agricultural Extension Service, helping farmers for over a century to produce the food you will be eating this Thanksgiving.
    Try the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Weather Service, the National Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, and on and on."

    Which one of these "stellar" programs generate their own income without additional gubment spending?

    Nice try. Again, what program exists that isnt rife with fraud, waste, and abuse?

    BTW, nice use again of the alinsky model of accusing without proof, then polarizing and attacking. How do you know me?
  11. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - November 26, 2013 9:09 am
    There is a "torrent" of criticism from the right: right minded pundits, the GOP, Fox News. They are all exaggerating, lying, and distorting the problems in an effort to undermine the act. There is even a GOP Playbook to do so. Obamacare is rolling out and millions are signing up, especially in the states who have made some effort to cooperate or have their own exchanges. More people can get on the fed site than cannot. The millions who lost their insurance were warned by their own companies and probably offered alternatives and/or just told to take out ACA compliant policies. Insurance companies have to carry you for 30 days even if you have missed a premium. The policies dropped were substandard with the new law and most will be better off shopping for a new one. Most people are covered through their employers (48%), 30% plus are covered by Medicare/Medicaid, 15% will have to get new policies, and only about 5-7% will or have been dropped and only 2 1/2 % of those will have to pay a little more. Most people will be able to get some kind of subsidy to pay for their insurance. I checked yesterday. It is not that hard to sign up even in red state Montana: Google Obamacare Montana and there are sites that will steer you through looking at policies, or give you a phone number, or send you to a navigator or even have one visit you. The site is better and better and will likely be glitch free soon, even now capable of signing up over 17 million per day. Yes, the young will be the last to et on board, but will especially by the second years when fines become more and more significant. All insurance works on the principles of many signing up and sharing the risk. Obamacare is really a private marketplace insurance plan, not a government program as many think. Healthcare is already coming down as medical efficiency and accountability is part of the new law. Millions will be covered that were not covered before. You cannot be turned down for previous existing conditions. There cannot be any lifetime caps. Insurance companies cannot drop you because you are sick. Children can be covered to age 26. If insurance companies do not provide preventive care they have to reimburse the consumer. Medical efficiency will be required and held accountable. If you do not have an Obamacare policy, it is more likely you than ability to sign up for one. The sky is not falling folks. We just have change, something that goes against the grain of conservative minded and the obstructionist GOP, Fox News, conservative pundits. The GOP is so intent on undermining Obama that they are doing a disservice to America.
  12. Kate55
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    Kate55 - November 26, 2013 12:30 am
    Hey people- our friend ' jus' is the host here. He never assembles more than two sentences in a row but he's always here to greet people at the door.
  13. Kate55
    Report Abuse
    Kate55 - November 26, 2013 12:28 am
    So Sam whaddya think about Social Security and Medicare. Or did you never pay what ya gonna do?
  14. Kate55
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    Kate55 - November 25, 2013 11:36 pm
    On November 25 the Missoulian published a long and confusing guest editorial by Fred Thomas, GOP legislator from Stevensville. Being new to the rules of ‘Guest Columns' I was sad and bewildered that the paper would publish text that was very near to outright lies. I see that is what a ‘guest columnist' can do within the right to free speech the newspaper is compelled to publish in a guest column. In these columns the the newspaper adheres to freedom of speech and does not hold to the normal publishing standards known as ‘fact checking'. So how many people read those words " Montana Legislature was right to reject Medicaid expansion" here: and believed them because they were written by an actual lawmaker (!) will never be known. Because we were in the midst of a nationwide Tea Party media blitz hammering away at Obamacare ( for reasons that remain unclear, since the framework originated within the GOP), I assumed it would continue the same awful trend. Which it did.

    The gross misinformation and distortions have settled down now, but the Tea Parts have already vowed to base their 2014 campaign on battling Obamacare with astronomical new miles of column inches and yawning points with an occasional tribal cry of Benghazi! - Boring! And although the website still has problems ( So what? There are month left to enroll), actual news is now emerging from what we know in this country as the free press and journalistic integrity. Despite the tsunami of echo chamber lies - both direct and insinuated, by fake Fox news in the daily headlines.

    In the Missoulian though it seems like every day, even twice a day there have been articles and letters to the editor in the correcting the misguided conclusions of Mr. Thomas, and reminding us all of the thousands of Montana veterans and working (working!) poor who are denied a chance to enroll in an expanded Medicaid program because our GOP legislators chose to reject the millions of dollars allocated from the federal level to pay for that expansion. After three years the states will be required to pay for 10% of the program. Not bad for a state flush with petro taxes. So the truth emerges. Today the Missoulian published a better kind of guest column by Jim Ahrens: "ACA has more success than faults." Among other credentials, Mr Ahrens is a former president of the Montana Hospital Association. For a further authoritative explanation of what is true, refer to the website of the Montana State Insurance Commissioner, Monica Lindeen. Whenever I think of how the GOP legislators have actively blocked readily available medical assistance to needy veterans I can only conclude that it is an act of malice. Thank you kindly Mr Ahrens for your words of truth. And thanks Missoulians, for seeing that we are properly informed. We are aware.
  15. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - November 25, 2013 6:58 pm
    Countries with national health-care---Just notice those that don't--
  16. Dubs
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    Dubs - November 25, 2013 3:35 pm
    Wow Jim, you sound just like Ed Schultz. This massive redistribution of wealth will fall apart and we will be out a trillion dollars with nothing to show for it. People take cheap shots at the Republicans for wanting to stop it but what do you expect when there was not ONE conservative supporter when it was passed--not one! It's hard to make anything work when you start off with one half of the country against anything. Bullying has worked for obama on a lot of things, but not this one.
  17. Z-man
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    Z-man - November 25, 2013 3:34 pm
    France, Germany, Sweden, U.K., Japan, Australia, Norway, The Netherlands and Canada -- to name a few. We spend nearly two and a half times more per person than most other nations with poorer results in many cases -- infant mortality and longevity among them. My beef with the ACA is it could have been the best of what works in other nations, and in some areas, ours. At least the ACA will be an improvement over our present system. The adage that you are only one illness or injury away from bankrupcy only applies to Americans.
  18. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - November 25, 2013 2:00 pm
    Let's see, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Mercury. Venus, Mars. Neptune, Pluto
    and of course Uranus.
  19. msonelson
    Report Abuse
    msonelson - November 25, 2013 1:35 pm
    So, uninsured and underinsured people are going to begin paying for their own hospital visits so the insurance companies can lower my rates and hospitals can lower their fees. Really! My guess is that insurance companies and hospitals will use the ACA as another pretext to increase my premiums and fees faster and higher they have already - If that's possible.
  20. yunfei
    Report Abuse
    yunfei - November 25, 2013 1:10 pm
    Supporters of Obamacare conveniently ignore that it takes away a basic freedom of choice for americans- the first time ever and a Marxist concept of penalizing the majority for the "greater good". The means do not justify the end. We could have all the "benefits " of Obamacare without a government takeover of health care, but the liberals want government control. The big problem with the ACA is that it does not correct the problems of the health care system. Where is Tort reform, that could save 25% of health care costs due to defensive medicine. Where are the Health Savings Accounts? Where is prevention of fraud and abuse- another 25% of medicare costs. Where is prescription drug cost control. Where is the $2500 / yr/family in savings the president promised to get this unread abortion of a bill passed. We will see rationing of care, as provided in the bill just as every country with govt. medicine has done. The rollout problems are just the beginning of a very flawed concept
  21. claudius
    Report Abuse
    claudius - November 25, 2013 1:04 pm
    @jus lost - Still just repeating the same tired lies you swallow from the AM radio idiots and Fox Fraudcasting.

    "What government program exists that isn't rife with fraud, waste and abuse?"

    Try the school lunch program, since 1947.
    Try the Agricultural Extension Service, helping farmers for over a century to produce the food you will be eating this Thanksgiving.
    Try the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Weather Service, the National Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, and on and on.

    People like you just make me tired. You complain about the "takers", but you're the ones who take and take, and try you hardest to give nothing back.

    You whinge and moan about "gubment", but you're always first in line with your hand out when you need something that only the government can provide.

    Grow up.

  22. jus wundrin
    Report Abuse
    jus wundrin - November 25, 2013 12:31 pm
    Which "advanced" nations are you referring to Z?
  23. jus wundrin
    Report Abuse
    jus wundrin - November 25, 2013 12:29 pm
    Ive heard that propaganda before jim, and I could source many problems that folk are having with obamacare, but Ill leave that up to you.

    My questions would be, what gubment program exists that isnt rife with fraud, waste and abuse? What gubment program is in the black, and generates its own income? What gubment program has met its requirements, and has been terminated?

    This is why I oppose obamacare. I am aware of how da gubment functions, so there was no need for me to read the endless pages of that tax increase. When this becomes another endless gubment money pit, like so many gubment programs have, will you begin to cast a weary eye, or will you still be a cheerleader on a broken playing field for a game that has no winners?
  24. Z-man
    Report Abuse
    Z-man - November 25, 2013 11:39 am
    The greatest Fault of the ACA is that it is NOT a government-run or controlled, single-payer plan or system that would be similar, or better, than that available in every other anvanced Nation on Earth. Its greatest Successes are only now being realized, and as it is fully implemented and improved upon we will wonder why it wasn't enacted decades ago. For those of us that suddenly have a life-threatening "pre-existing" condition, and monthly premiums that routinely icrease by double digits each and every year and are now unaffordable, the ACA is a godsend. The ACA may fall short of what it could be, but Republican lawmakers will regret that they have nothing, at all, to offer.
  25. J555-5
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    J555-5 - November 25, 2013 11:05 am
    With all these people having access to health insurance, why is Community Hospital cuttiing 60 positions and Providence (St. Pat's) cutting 20 positions. Are they expecting the death panels to deny care under Obamacare? Someone please explain these cuts and be specific.
  26. Stan Reck
    Report Abuse
    Stan Reck - November 25, 2013 10:27 am
    Yeah, never mind the millions who are losing their health insurance because of the ACA and never mind the website that simply doesn't work and never mind the lies told to get the American people to swallow this bitter pill. Yup, it surely is better. Worst. Idea. Ever. Liberals
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