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Deadline looms for responsible citizens to get Affordable Care

Published: Mon, March 24, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

A letter to the editor of The Vindicator from a Poland physician published five months ago headlined “Americans may accept Obamacare just as they did with Medicare” opened the floodgates to a phenomenal 940 — and counting — comments from highly charged and mostly angered and agitated readers.

The letter, which argues that a national program is essential to provide high-quality health care to all citizens at a reasonable cost, serves as a microcosm of the caustic and politically charged debate across the U.S. over the Affordable Care Act.

Today, as the deadline for enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act looms in seven short days, it’s time to press pause on such scornful debate and press on with maximum participation and sign-up.


After all, the act, informally known as Obama-care, stands as the law of the land and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional. Those eligible to sign up but fail to do so by next Monday will become lawbreakers and subject to penalties, fines and sizable reductions in their income-tax refunds.

But threat of punishment should not be a prime motivator for anyone eligible to take advantage of the myriad benefits the PPACA offers. It’s time to take the Affordable Care Act back to its basics: a much-needed law to reduce health-care costs and improve access to quality medical care for the majority of Americans.

To be sure, the ACA has not been without its problems. The clumsy and clunky rollout of the sign-up website last fall and continued delays and extensions in implementing critical portions of the ACA have embarrassed the Obama administration and given political critics convenient fodder for vitriolic attacks.

But, let’s face it. Many of the attacks have been patently political. Some Republicans have latched on to the president’s signature legislative achievement as a symbol of all they find abhorrent about his presidency. The act may not be the perfect solution to the nation’s critical health-care crisis, but it represents a tangible and viable initiative that can be improved upon with age.

As U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, detailed in a visit to the Valley Center of Eastern Gateway Community College in downtown Youngstown last week, the health law already has protected millions of Ohioans by ending lifetime caps on insurance coverage, covering both children and adults with pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, offering free preventive care in new private insurance plans and many other assets.


But don’t simply take that Democrat partisan’s word for it. Americans such as 29-year-old Amber Beall of Youngstown, a single mother with an 8-year-old son, says ACA has afforded her peace of mind and relief. After years of living without health insurance, she says she now pays only $55 a month, and after paying her annual $150 deductible, 100 percent of her medical needs are covered.

Beall also emphasized the need for young people to take time this week to sign up: “I hope young people take advantage of the Affordable Care Act and get insurance in the health insurance marketplace,” she implored.

Some young people feel invincible and not needing protection from skyrocketing health- care costs. But they should realize that one short trip to an emergency room can cost on average about $1,500. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 1 in 6 young adults have chronic illnesses and 1 in 2 report difficulties paying medical bills.

The cost savings for young and old alike enrolled in ACA are substantial. Substantial, too, should be cost savings for Americans outside the sphere of Obamacare. Those on private insurance plans should witness cost controls in tax dollars for indigent care and for emergency-room services across the board.

On balance, the ACA represents a strong prescription for lessening the crisis in health-care costs in this country. Responsible eligible citizens should recognize as much and sign up posthaste. Do so today online at healthcare.gov or by telephone at 1-800-318-2596.

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