By Rob Portman
As Americans gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving, a cloud hangs over the holiday for thousands of Delphi families and former employees as they face the repercussions of Obamacare on their healthcare choices. For these families, the cascade of bad news about Obamacare is more than just a story on the evening news; they are dealing with the consequences daily.
This month, 20,000 former Delphi salaried employees and their families must choose between the health plans they are offered through the Delphi Salaried Retiree Association and coverage available through the healthcare.gov exchanges. But because of the major technical issues with the Obamacare exchanges, these hard working men and women have been unable to compare the benefits and costs of these different plans. Like so many Americans who are faced with fines and penalties if they don’t sign up for healthcare on a website that doesn’t work, these Delphi employees are being punished for the failures of the Obama administration.
This is not the first time that Delphi employees have been used as pawns in a political game. In the summer of 2009, as the government took GM into bankruptcy, the Obama administration terminated thousands of Delphi salaried retirees had their pensions. These 20,000 salaried retirees, ranging from shop-floor supervisors and salespeople to engineers and office managers, spent many years at Delphi, a major employer and economic engine in towns across Ohio. They earned their pensions the American way, through hard work and dedication. Because of one political decision, all that hard work vanished into thin air.
Today these retirees are struggling to pay bills that they had budgeted for under their full pensions. Too often, they face foreclosure on their homes and possible bankruptcy in their futures. And despite promises from administration officials to provide information on how and why this was allowed to happen, Delphi employees remain in the dark. The last thing these men and women need is insecurity about their health care.
But that is what they face, along with thousands of Ohioans and millions of Americans across our country. According to the latest estimates, upwards of 10 million Americans will lose their health insurance because of Obamacare. The insurance they’ll be required to replace it with is likely to cost more money and include provisions they don’t need and don’t want. Meanwhile, enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges is far below what is needed to support the program.
The scope of Obamacare’s problems is unprecedented for a major government initiative. The news media has focused on the break down in the Obamacare website. That breakdown is certainly a huge problem, as Delphi retirees know first-hand. But a website can be fixed, and with the administration spending more than $200 million on the project, we can expect that one day the website will at least be functional. But the problems of higher costs and fewer choices will continue to be the true legacy of Obamacare, no matter how advanced and seamless the website eventually becomes. That is why I will continue to fight to repeal Obamacare and replace it with reform that works.
In the meantime, we cannot forget about the former Delphi employees who are already suffering because of the president’s health care reform. I recently posed a question to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, asking her what these retirees should do in the face of looming deadlines and a broken website. Unfortunately, like with so many of the problems plaguing Obamacare, I am afraid that the administration won’t be able to provide any good answers.
And that is perhaps the administration’s greatest failing of all.
Republican Rob Portman represents Ohio in the United States Senate.