The first wave of Obama-care goes into effect today, and health reporter Kevin Sack celebrated with a series of propaganda-style articles for the front of the National section, topped by "For Many Families, Health Care Relief Begins Today." (And higher costs and denied coverage as well.)
The Times' headline reads more like an Obama administration press release than an actual instance of journalism, and Sack's reference (in a news story) to the "Darwinian insurance system" doesn't inspire confidence in his objectivity.
Sometimes lost in the partisan clamor about the new health care law is the profound relief it is expected to bring to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been stricken first by disease and then by a Darwinian insurance system.
On Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a number of its most central consumer protections take effect, just in time for the midterm elections.
Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.
The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents' policies.
After Sack allowed a single middle paragraph for dissent from House Republicans, and a brief mention that Democrats had managed to defer "the pain of tax increases and penalties until after the election," he indulged in more leftist boosting of the program's alleged popularity, or at least "many of the provisions." Sack conveniently bypasses the findings of recent New York Times/CBS News polls that find most respondents disapprove of the plan.
Polls have found that many of the provisions taking effect Thursday are popular, tugging at a national sense of fairness and feeding off distrust of health insurers. They bear particular appeal for the 14 million people who must buy policies on the individual market rather than through employers and are thus at the mercy of the industry. And they land on the heels of a government report showing that the recession drove the number of uninsured Americans to 50.7 million in 2009, up 10 percent in a year.
Three other brief profiles on the same page were headlined as if the Obama administration were free-lancing as copy editors. "Chronically Ill, and Covered," "Cap Lifts, and So Do Spirits," and "24, and Back in the Fold." (Insurers must offer coverage to "children" (?) under their parents' plan until they turn 26.)
The Washington Examiner has an alternative view in an editorial: "Obamacare is even worse than critics thought." A couple of the editorial's bullet points:
Obamacare won't decrease health care costs for the government. According to Medicare's actuary, it will increase costs. The same is likely to happen for privately funded health care.
Obamacare will increase insurance premiums - in some places, it already has. Insurers, suddenly forced to cover clients' children until age 26, have little choice but to raise premiums, and they attribute to Obamacare's mandates a 1 to 9 percent increase. Obama's only method of preventing massive rate increases so far has been to threaten insurers.
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