Obama’s Health Law Finally Gets Real for America

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Now is when Americans start figuring out that President Barack Obama’s health-care law goes beyond political talk and really does affect them and people they know.

With a cranky federal website complicating access to new coverage and some consumers being notified that their existing plans are going away, the potential for winners and losers is creating anxiety and confusion.

“I’ve had questions like ‘Are they going to put me in jail if I don’t buy insurance? Because nobody will sell it to me,’” said Bonnie Burns, a longtime community-level insurance counselor from California. “We have family members who are violently opposed to Obamacare and they are on Medicaid; they don’t understand that they’re already covered by taxpayer benefits.

“And then there is a young man with lupus who would have never been insurable,” Burns continued. “He is on his parents’ plan and he’ll be able to buy his own coverage. They are very relieved.”

A poll just out from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation documents shifts in the country in the month since insurance sign-ups began.

Fifty-five percent now say they have enough information to understand the law’s impact on their family, up 8 percentage points in just one month. Part of the reason is that advertising about how to get coverage is beginning to register.

“The law is getting more and more real for people,” said Drew Altman, the foundation’s president. “A lot of this will turn on whether there’s a perception that there have been more winners than losers. … It’s not whether an expert thinks something is a better insurance policy; it’s whether people perceive it that way.”

The Obama administration insists nobody will lose coverage as a result of cancellation notices going out to millions of people. At least 3.5 million Americans have been issued cancellations, but the exact number is unclear. Associated Press checks find that data is unavailable in half of the states.

Mainly they are people who buy directly from an insurer rather than having workplace coverage. Officials say these consumers aren’t getting “canceled” but “transitioned” or “migrated” to better plans because their current coverage doesn’t meet minimum standards. They won’t have to go uninsured, and some could save a lot if they qualify for the law’s tax credits.

Speaking in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall this past week, Obama said the problem is limited to fewer than 5 percent of Americans “who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.”

But in a nation of more than 300 million, 5 percent is a big number — about 15 million people.