The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has clawed its way back to relevancy.
After discarding loyal subscribers like a mangy dog shedding hair and cutting its vaunted distribution system (you could buy an AJC in Jacksonville on Sunday morning after the Geogia-Florida game and read complete coverage) to the bone, the state’s flagship newspaper has righted itself.
It is doing quality work in print and online.
Last week, it ran a series of well-researched, finely written pieces on Obamacare. Reporters interviewed dozens of people from all walks of life who will be impacted. The series was enlightening.
At week’s end, it offered up an opinion on the health care law written by editorial board member Andre Jackson. The board’s opinion is different from mine and likely different from that many of you hold but it is worth reading.
Opinions are not bad just because they differ from our own.
Here is the editorial. I urge you to read and consider it.
Those two words are the big-type tagline for the Arkansas Insurance Department’s website intended to guide residents through the dense maze of changes bearing down on us all as a result of Obamacare. In Georgia, if our state’s leaders had built a similar website, we’d likely call it “Get Away!”
That’s the case even as widely ballyhooed state health insurance exchanges open their doors come Tuesday — a big milestone in ever-controversial Obamacare’s rollout. But we haven’t built such a site here. Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens prefers a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, do-no-evil tactic. That’s as opposed to using his office’s influence to provide actual information that Georgians can use to make informed decisions that may well affect their health and finances, if not their very life or death. The fact that 62 percent of Georgia adults in a statewide poll conducted this month for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicated they were “not very clear” about Obamacare’s effects on them and their family shows plainly that people are in sore need of reliable information. And it is true that Hudgens has gone on the hustings about Obamacare. To lambaste it. He told a Floyd County political gathering that, “The problem is Obamacare.”
His solution, offered to applause: “Let me tell you what we’re doing – everything in our power to be an obstructionist.” Such a stance, while it may play well politically, nonetheless shows an outrageous lack of respect for the rule of law. Hudgens’ office declined an offer to elaborate on his views on this page. And Georgia government’s official “kiss my grits” response to Obamacare is, really, a ludicrous stance for a state of our size and global ambition in the 21st century. It is also no strategy for success for a state that proclaims it is open for business as a premier site of choice for industry and families seeking a good and prosperous place to call home. In fact, an argument can be made that the ongoing intransigence of state leaders when it comes to Obamacare could apply the brakes on growth in a noticeable way, even as economic development officials work hard to speed up Georgia’s engines. We cannot afford that drag on our state’s economy any more than we can afford reverting back to the nation’s pre-Obamacare way of paying for health care.
Nostalgia aside, the previous mishmash of private and public health insurance backed up, kinda sorta, by an inefficient and rickety usage of hospital emergency rooms as health clinics for the uninsured was itself unsustainable, even as it shifted costs in bewildering ways onto the unsuspecting. Too many seem to have forgotten that.
So is Obamacare perfect? No.
Does it have serious problems and shortcomings? Yes.
Is it, or will it be, the final word? Certainly not.
Even its namesake, President Barack Obama, cannot believe that the 900-page law will stand for generations. In some way or manner, U.S. health care policy will change — perhaps sooner, perhaps later.
We’ll be clear here. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — ACA, or Obamacare for short — is imperfect in both concept and execution, even if its original intentions of expanding access to health care were laudable.
Millions of Americans stand firmly in opposing camps that either despise or, however gingerly, support the law and the changes it’s wrought. Many more seem somewhere in the middle. And others are just plain confused about what is, or is not, happening to health insurance plans, premium costs and the like. As long as we’re tallying, let’s not forget the estimated 48 million non-elderly Americans who lack health insurance.
The AJC’s poll shows that most Georgians don’t like the law, even as a majority say they approve of some of its major elements. More than half, 54 percent, oppose the “individual mandate” requiring most Americans above a certain income level either to buy insurance or pay a fine. Seventy-one percent of adults here approve of letting children stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26. Six of 10 people responding believe Georgia should expand access to Medicaid, which the state is refusing to do, citing cost.
If you think all this makes for a confusing mess, you’re right. And in the short-term at least, things will likely get worse on that front.
That said, the ACA remains the law of the land. With some alteration, it has withstood a legal challenge decided by the nation’s highest court.
It begs saying here that there’s long precedent for our working with Washington. Or at least trying to. We’ve done it to gain D.C. dollars to help fund education at the state level. And Georgia’s elected officials, as recently as last week, were trying to sweet-talk the feds into paying most of the $662 million cost of deepening the Savannah harbor.
We won’t even try to predict what will happen next on health care. But for now, Georgians would be best served, we believe, if state officials stepped off of their soapboxes and back into their offices to help figure out the best ways for people to take part in the new way of health care in America.
Doing anything else puts the health and pocketbooks of too many Georgians at risk.