Obamacare expert gets slammed by critics at Tiger Bay Club of Tampa

07/19/13 Janelle Irwin
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Open enrollment in healthcare exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act begins on October 1st. Members of Tiger Bay Club of Tampa were reminded Friday, the process is complicated.

The project director for the group Florida Covering Kids and Families, Jodi Ray, has been contracted as a navigator to help people understand the new law and find the right health coverage. But after explaining some upcoming provisions, she took a verbal lashing from some members of Tampa Tiger Bay who are opposed to Obamacare. One of them was Adam Bantner, a Tampa attorney.

“I think with the Affordable Care Act, there’s already been some broken promises with it. One, that your insurance rates would not go up and it did as one of the immediate effects of it. Two, that you’d be able to keep your own coverage if you wanted to and I think some people are already losing some coverage or getting dropped because of the oncoming implementation of this. So, my question to you is, why should we believe that this is going to make healthcare better – not just simply add to the roles – but how is this going to make healthcare for everybody better or is it going to have that effect?

“So, insurance companies raising rates are happening [regardless] and have been happening [regardless] of ACA. They’ve been coming and going on for years.”

Ray also responded to Bantner’s question implying that more people with insurance will mean less care for people who are already insured.

“Well, that’s an assumption based on the fact that there are existing provider networks. One of the key elements of ACA is building the provider networks and strengthening the trained professionals out there to provide the needed services. So, you’re right. Based on the existing provider network that would be very challenging because you’re throwing more people into having coverage. So, the idea is, you’re not just building the enrollees, but you’re building the provider network that can support and provide the services that are necessary to serve those newly insured.”

Tiger Bay member Peter Hughes asked about another controversial provision in the federal healthcare law.

“A lot of the opponents to the Affordable Care Act bring up the penalties that are being imposed to businesses or individuals for not providing healthcare or applying for the healthcare.”

The individual mandate was upheld by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but opponents are still fuming about the provision that requires everyone to carry some type of health coverage or face fines. Ray, the healthcare navigator, said the mandate on employers has been delayed for one year.

“Penalties for the individual have not been delayed, so everybody is going to be expected to enroll in some kind of coverage. I haven’t seen, exactly, any rule to address those states that are not providing Medicaid expansion which is going to affect – leave folks without coverage and I know those penalties are also going to be determined based on income level, if they are applied.”

Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner criticized those who lashed out at Obamacare based on cost.

“Frankly, I wonder about people who can afford insurance worrying about paying a little bit more to help some unfortunate people that can’t get it.”

Another Tiger Bay member, John Neukamm, rifled through a list of problems he found with the healthcare law including proving a person’s income, not being able to choose doctors and the initial implementation in 2010 being fundamentally flawed.

“In light of all that, will you at least concede that your presentation was far more rosy than this insurance program led us to believe?”

“Well, my presentation was intended to give you the facts about the program and the timelines for implementation and what the coverage is going to be and what’s going to be required to connect people to coverage and, for the most part, that’s what was in the presentation.”

Ray’s presentation lasted about 30 minutes and left the audience looking puzzled. There were so many follow up questions – both in response to political talking points about the law and logistics on how it works – that Tiger Bay extended their question and answer portion of the luncheon. Carl Zielonka is a Tampa dentist.

“You’ve done a very exceptional job of totally and completely confusing an audience of well educated, well read, well involved and interested in people. How in the earth are you going to explain this to Joe Lunchbucket who barely can read anything and never keeps up with the news.”

Ray explained that people are being trained to help those who need it apply for insurance through the insurance marketplace. She also pointed to the website, healthcare.gov to answer any remaining questions.

Friday’s informational meeting was a step out of Tiger Bay’s normal program – typically they host politicians.

The next Tiger Bay meeting on August 16 will feature a debate between the presidents of the Young Democrats and Young Republicans.

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