Monday, July 23, 2012

The Obamacare Direct Mail Campaign

The Affordable Care Act, often labeled (derisively) as Obamacare, has never been an incredibly popular piece of legislation at least not when pollsters ask about the overall legislation. Individual elements do poll quite favorably. ACA has become the domestic achievement for this White House for good or for ill and I think a recent letter I received could help to change the perception of the ACA and make the title "Obamacare" a positive descriptor.

About two weeks back I had a curious voice mail from my health insurance company about an issue I should really call them back about.  I didn't because typically when my health insurance company needs to talk to me about something, it's not a good something.  Not this time.  A few days later I received a letter in the mail. There were two sheets and on the second sheet in large, plain type it read: "A rebate will be paid to your employer due to new requirements outlined in the Federal Healthcare Reform regulation." A rebate you say?  On the other page was more of fine print:
The Affordable Care Act requires [my employer's provider] to rebate part of the premiums it received if it does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums [my employer's provider] receives on healthcare services...No more than 20 percent of premiums may be spent on administrative costs...This is referred to as the "Medical Loss Ratio" standard or the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule in the Affordable Care Act is intended to ensure that consumers get value for their health care dollars.
So let me get this straight, my employer will receive a check from our insurance provider because our insurance provider didn't meet the 80/20 rule, and the letter goes on to describe how my employer can distribute the rebate, provided it's a non-Federal governmental plan.
  1. "Reducing premiums for the upcoming year; or"
  2. "Providing a cash rebate to employees or subscribers that were covered by the health insurance on which the rebate is based."
My employer's insurance provider is a large one, covering over 3 million people. While the 80/20 rule is determined state to state--basically my provider didn't meet the standard in DC, but might have in Virginia--there are potentially a couple million people just from my provider that are primed to see a tangible benefit from the 80/20 rule and they all got a letter telling them they would get a tangible benefit.  You can't buy this kind of positive publicity for legislation.

Now, I'm not here to debate the wisdom of this rule.  I'm simply suggesting a piece of legislation that has elements a majority of people clearly favor just picked up what will likely prove to be a net positive in an election year.  Obviously Romney has been reluctant to come out too strong against Obamacare because, well Obama aped Romneycare, but potentially there are independents who weren't too excited about Obamacare that have now seen as many as three direct benefits from legislation that doesn't even take full effect until 2014. They've seen insurance companies can't deny them coverage, they've seen their children receive continued coverage until age 26, and they've seen a letter about a rebate.

Now perhaps I'm overestimating the impact and I haven't seen other pundits talk about this much, but this seems like a piece of good news for Obamacare and by transitory properties, a good piece of news for the president.


UPDATE: I've been informed by a friend at Doctors for America that I got one of the policy points wrong. Insurance companies can still deny coverage to people over 18 due to pre-existing conditions. This protection isn't set up to take place for a bit longer. Right now only those 18 and under cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. If someone over 18 is denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition and can't get coverage for 6 months, they are eligible for a high-risk buying pool through the federal government. Full details available at www.healthcare.gov.


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