Obamacare rolls out anyway -- even in Western Maryland

Even opponents are eligible for the benefits of the new health insurance law

  • Becca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, and Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, are prepared for the first day of enrollment for the new health exchanges.
Becca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
October 02, 2013|Dan Rodricks

It's a beautiful thing: Thousands of people in Western Maryland — that cradle of rural conservatism and fed-up secessionists who want to declare their independence as the country's 51st state — are now eligible for affordable health insurance under Obamacare.

And 100 trained and certified Obamacare specialists are standing by at numerous locations in the five Western Maryland counties to help them enroll.

Is this a great country, or what?

No matter where you live, no matter what your political affiliation, you still get to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — the one that tea party conservatives in Congress keep trying to destroy.

Even if you despise President Barack Obama and Democratic Party ideology, you can still get coverage.

That's the way it works.

I love this country.

On Tuesday, the day sore-loser congressional Republicans forced parts of the federal government to shut down over Obamacare, the fine people who work for a program called Door to HealthCare started enrolling Western Marylanders in new health plans.

That's what I call "Moving Right Along Now." They didn't let the ridiculous antics of Capitol Hill stop them from implementing a law that could eventually lead millions of Americans to healthier lives — or at least away from the fear of bankruptcy from medical bills.

Door to HealthCare is part of the big rollout of Obamacare.

In Maryland, various programs work through the Maryland Health Connection, the state's new health insurance marketplace, to get people signed up — young people, people who've never been able to afford health insurance or get it through an employer.

Door to HealthCare is the official consumer assistance organization for the five Western Maryland counties — Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington — plus Howard.

The organization is part of Healthy Howard, the nationally recognized program that already has helped thousands of uninsured men, women and children find affordable health care.

Healthy Howard is one of those progressive nonprofits run by people who think medical care should be a right, not a privilege. It was boldly conceived in 2008 by the county government (led by Democrats) to fill a void left by years of inaction by Congress.

Now, more Marylanders will be able to get subsidized health care.

Christine Hall, executive director of Healthy Howard, estimates that 84,000 people in the five Western Maryland counties, plus Howard, are eligible for the benefits of Obamacare.

And that includes opponents of the president's signature domestic program. That even includes members of the tea party and that small group of angry Western Marylanders who have started a secession movement.

It's a beautiful thing.

No one says this will all work perfectly. But who in their right mind thinks things we will be better if we just go back a few years to the status quo?

Every time I hear some Republican congressman talk trash about Obamacare — telling us why it won't work, or pointing out some flaw — I have to ask: Where were you five years ago, fella? What was your idea for providing health insurance for the uninsured, the "emergency room sick" who cost the rest of us, on average, $1,000 every year in our premiums?

The answer is: Nowhere.

A national program for insuring the uninsured was rejected in the Clinton years, a nonstarter in the George W. Bush years. It remained Teddy Kennedy's pipe dream, even as medical costs and insurance premiums went off the charts.

Then, along come Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid, and we finally get a comprehensive program to tackle this very important but unfinished business of progressive government.

The argument for Obamacare carried both moral and economic weight. Though a simple single-payer system would have been better, Obamacare is upon us, with insurance companies still in the mix, but premiums for low-income Americans subsidized.

Obamacare passed muster with the Supreme Court.

Another presidential election came and went. Obama won. The fellow who said he'd repeal Obamacare lost.

And as the do-gooders prepared for its rollout, the tea party conservatives continued to scheme to defund it and bring it down. Refusing to accept reality, they tied further government spending to a ridiculous pick-apart of the Affordable Care Act.

And so here we are today, with elements of the federal government unfunded and unable to continue operation.

But it's still a great country.

Obamacare is the law of the land. Forty-plus repeal votes in the House of Representatives could not stop it. As congressional Republicans plot their next act of sabotage, people like those at the Door to HealthCare are on the job, rounding up the uninsured of Western Maryland, helping them find the coverage they need.

Even people who opposed Obamacare — even those who want to leave Maryland because it's too blue — are eligible for it.

That's a beautiful thing.

drodricks@baltsun.com

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