Our view: Disappointingly, more questions than answers on Affordable Care ActThe enormous changes are only weeks away from starting to kick in.
Congress and the president have done a lousy job of explaining federal health-care reform, Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said at a forum early Tuesday sponsored by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
So she shouldn’t have been surprised by the standing room-only crowd — more than twice the number who usually attend the monthly forums — that turned out to hear her and Small Business Administration Director Nancy Libersky explain changes in how health costs will be covered and how health insurance will be purchased and sold under the quickly coming federally mandated changes.
The enormous changes are only weeks away from starting to kick in. Disappointingly, though, as Tuesday’s forum showed, far more questions persist than answers are available.
“We can’t believe the lack of clarity,” Pat Heffernan, chairman of the chamber board, told the News Tribune Opinion page — and that was after questions were asked and answered at the forum. “It’s scary.”
Earlier, during the forum, which was held in Valentini’s restaurant on London Road, Jesson, a former law professor now in charge of implementing federal health-care reform for Minnesota, didn’t entirely disagree with Heffernan.
“There’ll be hiccups,” she acknowledged. “There’ll be bumps in the road. We’ll work through those.”
We’ll also almost certainly pay more for health care and health insurance, especially initially. How much more? Don’t know yet, Jesson said.
“I need to wait. I’m like a lot of you, I need to wait and see,” she said, sounding uncomfortably like Rep. Nancy Pelosi. “This is just coming into play. We don’t know how everything will pan out.”
In that absence of knowledge, misinformation abounds.
“A lot of people are really receiving the wrong information (and are struggling) to work out the myth vs. the facts,” Libersky acknowledged. As one example, she said her federal office in Minneapolis has been getting a lot of calls from business owners convinced their insurance companies will raise fees by an astronomical amount. But the new law says fees can’t be raised by more than 10 percent.
“It’s going to take time,” Libersky warned. “It’s going to take a while for people to understand what’s going on.”
Toward the end of the forum, Libersky speculated about the number of insurance companies expected to participate in a state-run online marketplace and what they’ll offer.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens,” she said.
To that the chamber’s director of policy and education Roger Wedin quickly retorted: “We can probably do without ‘interesting.’ ”
Indeed, and that’s especially true now that we’re so close to the Oct. 1 start of implementation. Needed now are answers, reliable information and clarity. Instead, frustratingly, lingering, complicated questions remain, accompanied by fears of skyrocketing costs and other unknowns.