Sorry New Jersey Artists: An Unhealthy Trend
For over two years we’ve followed and reported on the progress of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “health reform” or “ObamaCare”) as it moved from just-passed legislation to (near) full-on implementation. There have been bumps along the way and a lot of logistics remain unsettled, but as we draw closer to 2014 the final pieces of the law are coming into place and major changes are in the works.
Health reform may not solve all of the myriad insurance-related challenges that artists face, but it represents real progress on a number of fronts. Notably, its most modest legislative achievement – the creation of state-run insurance exchanges to provide centralized, trustworthy information about plan options – will have perhaps the greatest impact on artists and other self-employed workers. This should be cause for celebration in the arts community.
In most states, anyway. Earlier this month New Jersey’s Chris Christie became the second governor – after New Mexico’s Susana Martinez – to veto legislation to create an online insurance exchange, calling it “premature” given that the Supreme Court is still deliberating the constitutionality of various aspects of the law.
True, the Court will not reach a decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act until this summer. But to postpone the creation of government-regulated online insurance marketplaces, designed with the needs of individuals and small businesses at heart, is to favor partisan point-scoring over the financial and physical well-being of one’s constituents.
The current insurance marketplace is opaque and tortuous to navigate. It is shockingly easy to purchase an insurance policy that is more expensive than warranted, or that excludes important coverages. Yes, there are ways to educate and protect oneself, but insurance is complicated, expensive, and very personal. Unless you have capable help that you trust to keep your best interests at heart, you’re at risk.
The exchanges provide one-stop shopping for all available plans—including government-run and private options—and the ability to compare plans side-by-side, including benefits, networks, and price. Consolidated offerings and standardized language empower consumers to make the best choices possible. Increased transparency and simplified shopping increase competition and drive premiums down. The result? Fewer uninsured individuals and more small businesses able to provide coverage for their employees, all at minimal cost to the state.
States with functioning health insurance exchanges will attract the eager, engaged, creative individuals who drive economic growth and improve our quality of life. There are enough barriers to entrepreneurial risk-taking: access to benefits should no longer be one.
Rather than stubbornly standing in the path of progress, our elected officials should follow the lead of these creative entrepreneurs and lay something on the line. This kind of grandstanding may go over big with Fox News, but allowing the health insurance marketplace to remain dangerous and opaque, while offering nothing resembling an alternative solution, is cowardice, not conviction.