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Editorial: A bumpy start for Affordable Care Act

How you are feeling as an Oregonian about Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) and Cover Oregon right now probably depends a lot on who you are and where you stand within the health care hierarchy:

• If you are currently covered for insurance in Oregon’s high risk pool, you may be feeling worried and a little frightened right now. Pool coverage is going away beginning Dec. 15 and unless the Cover Oregon website gets up and running and people can enroll for Obamacare coverage soon, you may risk losing coverage for a severe or chronic ailment that requires multiple doctor visits and treatments every month.

• If you are one of about 150,000 Oregonians that face cancellation of their health care plans by the end of the year because they don’t meet the minimum coverage requirements under Obamacare, you may be feeling angry right now. Your premiums may be going up because the “crappy” coverage that was all you could afford now has to be replaced with something more expensive to comply with the law.

You might also risk being uninsured if you don’t enroll in a new plan, but you can’t enroll because Cover Oregon’s buggy website isn’t helping anyone right now.

• If you are one of Oregon’s 600,000 uninsured residents, you may be feeling excited about the prospect of being able to afford healthcare at long last — or anxious because the botched websites at both the state and federal levels are preventing you from signing up in time to get insurance when the new programs start on Jan. 1.

You, like many Oregonians, may be wondering why the state wasted so much money on a costly yet uninformative advertising campaign for a system that doesn’t even work.

• If your health insurance is paid for by your employer right now, you may be annoyed because you have to start paying a portion — or an increasing portion — of the insurance premium and your deductible has simultaneously gone up to help compensate for the higher costs of new Obamacare provisions.

Yes, the list goes on. The short-term fallout of trying to implement a new health care system that is being bumpily overlaid atop our existing broken system is, by almost any definition, a rocky start.

And the two-week government shutdown can only have added to the problems.

The focus should be squarely on solving these problems at both the state and federal levels so the program’s primary goal can be achieved: making sure more Americans have access to affordable health care.

While that indeed may be the focus at the state level, Congress has gone directly to the finger-pointing stage without bothering to fix the problems first.

The bumps and blunders, in addition to the three-ring circus inside the beltway, may have some nervous people wanting to walk away Obamacare altogether, but that’s not the way to go.

If predictions are accurate, substantially whittling down the number of uninsured will, over time, slow the runaway train that is soaring health care cost through improved economies of scale — as long as the program doesn’t become a bloated giveaway to massive insurance corporations.

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