Ohio news is chock full of headlines that prominently patronize Gov. John Kasich in one way or another, now that he’s released his latest two budgets, the largest in state history. This is, of course, high irony given the governor’s so-called bonafides as a fiscal conservative, and his Quixotic crusade to push a federal balanced budget amendment to keep spending in-check in Washington.
It’s a real treasure hunt, then, to find Ohio headlines that inform approximately 600,000 Ohioans they stand to benefit by signing up for or re-enrolling in the Affordable Care Act [ACA] before this year’s February 15th deadline, now less than two weeks away.
To do what Ohio mainstream media has failed to do for its readership to date, Plunderbund offers this public service announcement to those who, for whatever reason, want access to quality, affordable healthcare insurance made possible through Obamacare, the new healthcare law Congress passed in 2011 that was subsequently declared constitutional in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Try It, You’ll Like it
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, officials for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS} and Enroll America [EA] spoke about Ohio enrollment sign ups in Ohio. HHS Regional Director Kathleen Falk said 7.5 million consumers nationwide will automatically be enrolled. In Ohio, 202,000 have selected a plan or automatically re-enrolled, Falk noted, breaking it down by regions as follows: Cleveland 41,837, Columbus 32,827, Cincinnati 32,453 and Dayton 12,082. “Millions of Americans are now counting on the Affordable Care Act, making it a part of their lives,” Falk told reporters, adding, “The data shows significant progress across America.”
She said 75 percent of Ohioans are now able to purchase coverage for about $100-per-month after tax credits. Eighty-four percent of Ohioans who have selected plans are eligible for subsidies, important news state officials and media outlets have been reticent to say with any regularity or at all. Good news, Falk said, is that Ohio has four more healthcare insurers participating this year  than last year , the first year Americans were able to take advantage of the ACA through state exchanges [marketplaces]. Falk noted that there are more plans to choose from: 63 plans in Hamilton County, 102 plans in Cuyahoga and 57 plans in Columbus.
Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor said it would be too expensive to run their own marketplace, so that responsibility defaulted to HHS. Disaster awaits hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, and millions more across the nation, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal subsidies going to states like Ohio that let HHS run exchanges are only legal in states that run their own exchanges. That decision is expected in June.
On the conference call, Falk noted that 11 million American have reached out directly, while 25 million have visited the website for help. Trey Daley, Ohio State Director for Enroll America, joined Falk on the call, saying his group is actively engaged in local outreach efforts as the deadline for Open Enrollment on Feb. 15, 2015 nears. For the first time, he said, information on plans can be viewed by Metropolitan Statistical Area. “This localized data provides another level of detail to better understand total plan selections within local communities,” Daley said. He noted that about 600,000 otherwise eligible Ohioans remain uninsured, but both he and Falk anticipate a “huge outpouring” before the deadline for sign-up or re-enrollment hits on Feb. 15. They based their assessment on what happened last year, when the program stumbled badly at the beginning but regained its footing such that projected turnouts were surpassed in the final weeks and days before the deadline.
When asked by OhioNewsBureau what more Ohio officials could be doing to promote sign-ups in the ACA, given the unabashed hostility state leaders have shown toward the act, regional director Falk focused instead on the one thing Gov. Kasich has done, in spite of his belief the law is flawed and needs to be replaced. “Gov. Kasich has been a strong leader on Medicaid expansion,” she said, adding that that’s made a profound difference.
Falk was also upbeat about so-called millenials buying insurance. She expects this year to be much like last year, in that they will sign-up by deadline time. As of January 15, Falk said, 73 percent have selected new plans.
In a reminder from HealthCare.gov sent out recently, Americans are encouraged to sign up. “So if you haven’t submitted your application yet, today’s the day to take action. This year’s streamlined application makes it easier than ever – you can even do it on your mobile device.” HHS reminds Ohioans that 80 percent of people who sign up are getting financial help with their monthly premium. “There are only 9 days left until the final deadline on Sunday, February 15, so don’t delay. We’re committed to making sure you get the quality coverage you need.”
In separate but related news, The Hill reported Friday that GOP senators unveiled a new replacement for ObamaCare this week, but few conservatives are rallying around it. The same week the GOP House voted for a fourth time to fully repeal ObamaCare, the party remains divided over what would come next.