The new Democratic talking point about Obamacare is full of optimism: After all, the launch of the Medicare prescription drug program was bumpy, too, but now the program is considered a huge success. It’s true, and there are parallels between the two rollouts — but that doesn’t guarantee that Obamacare will be vindicated in the same way, health care experts say.
"If the particular drugs you use are on more expensive tiers or not on the formulary, that can lead to higher out-of-pocket costs," says Jack Hoadley, a health policy analyst at Georgetown University. "Go on the online plan finder on Medicare.gov and use your current mix of drugs to calculate your total out-of-pocket costs and not just the premiums."
With so much attention being paid to the troubled debut of the Obama administration’s health insurance exchanges, another alternative has largely gone unnoticed: unless you live in Washington, D.C., or Vermont, you can also buy insurance outside the exchanges — by going directly to insurance brokers, agents or company Web sites.
Provisions in the law, such as those that prohibit cost sharing or deductibles for preventive care, help level the playing field between states with and without a large number of insurers, some say. "The quality will be comparable because they have to meet a minimum threshold (for) the basics of the plans," says Georgetown senior research fellow Sabrina Corlette. "It's really around the pricing that competition can play a role."
Perhaps our standards are too low if all we expect is that our politicians, whose job is to make government work, simply start doing what they are paid to do. But that alone, after all we’ve been through, would be a great step forward. It’s something to hope for.
Audie Cornish talks with regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and David Brooks with The New York Times. They take stock of the winners and losers in the government shutdown and look forward to the next potential budget and debt crisis a few months from now.