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Sebelius Blames State And Federal Obstacles For Many Of Obamacare’s Problems

Courtesy photo - Creative Commons

“There’s no question the law has worked well in some areas and it’s still struggling in others.”

That’s the response from former Secretary of Health and Human Services and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to a question about the signature initiative of the Obama administration.

“We definitely need in the future to have more competition in the states,” Sebelius said in a telephone interview with KCUR 89.3 on Thursday.

Tuesday was the first day to sign up, re-enroll or change a 2017 insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Critics contend the law, commonly known as Obamacare, has failed to offer a wide choice of insurers as promised, with many companies and co-ops claiming mounting losses and pulling out.

“That could be (helped) both by Congress funding the law as it was meant to be funded and by taking up the public option, which introduces another alternative, particularly in areas where individuals only have one or two insurance company choices,” Sebelius said.

The public option, which has been promoted by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, would be a government-run health insurance plan competing with or substituting for private companies, with the aim of lowering premiums.

Sebelius acknowledges some people will see their rates go up during the current open enrollment period. But that’s not because of Obamacare, she said.

“The people seeing very significant rate hikes are a limited number in the marketplace and don’t qualify for subsidies,” she said.

Only individuals who make less than 400 percent of the poverty level qualify for the subsidies. 

Sebelius chastised Congress for refusing to address problems with the law and criticized states that have not expanded Medicaid, as contemplated by the Affordable Care Act. Kansas and Missouri are among 19 states that have refused to do so.

Republicans presidential nominee Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act if he is elected.

“Unfortunately, most who complain about (the law) have had coverage forever,” Sebelius said. “They’re complaining on behalf of someone else.”

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer at KCUR 89.3. You can reach here on Twitter @laurazig or at lauraz@kcur.org

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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