Obamacare: Just sign up

Here's the one thing everyone needs to know about Obamacare: Just sign up. If you live in Illinois, click here  to go to the website to price insurance plans for yourself and your family.

Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill used to say that all politics is local. In this case it's personal.

The whole debt-ceiling, government-shut-down thing has obscured something completely miraculous in our culture, the dawn of a new age of customer-driven health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is a convoluted, million-page tome that will remain as incomprehensible as our tax code. Most people will never completely understand it. It's possible that no one will ever understand it. It may need some work, but it is definitely OVERDUE for prime time.

There are some key provisions which will affect many of us and I've studied up on it to bring you a few of them. While some have already gone into effect, the majority will go into effect in the near future. The sign-up for insurance exchanges began October 1 (Tuesday).

Some people recently got checks from their health insurance companies and deposited them without giving it much thought. Heck, if I get a check in the mail, I run to the bank to get it deposited before someone realizes their mistake and cancels it. But, this was no mistake.

One of the lesser known provisions of ACA is that the insurance companies have to spend at least 80 cents of your premium dollar on health care. If they overspend on non-health care items, they have to refund part of your premium.

You may remember from the movie Erin Brockavich that some insurance companies have entire departments filled with people whose sole job is to stamp "REJECTED" on your claim, hoping that you'll just go away rejected and dejected. Not so easy anymore under ACA.

Getting an additional 20-30 million new customers made the insurance companies giddy, and they were on board with ACA from the get. It was insurance company lobbyists and congressional aides who put the bill together. Just like cigarette laws are co-written with tobacco lobbyists.

In a business-as-usual world, 20-30 million new customers would have been a windfall for a handfull of large insurance companies. They soon realized, though that under ACA business was going to be anything BUT usual.

For starters, the whole pre-existing condition thing went out the window. That's one of the things that's already gone into effect.

A friend of mine was showing me a rental property of his that he was remodeling. The carpenter, a chatty fellow named Chris, told me about a back operation he had in June and how happy he was with the outcome.

He said that he had been in severe pain and unable to work. Now he is totally pain-free, albeit broke because he had no insurance at the time. His current insurance excludes back-related issues because the premiums to avoid the exclusion would've been prohibitive. Co-incidentally, I met him on October 1 and he told me that he was going on the ACA website as soon as he got home.

Chris also told me about his partner, a diabetic who has never been able to get health insurance. I didn't get the partner's name or ascertain if it was a business partner or life partner, but Chris seemed very pleased that the man would finally be able to get health insurance.

This is not a made-up story, I really met Chris and it opened my eyes to what John Boehner scoffingly named "Obamacare" and how it affects real people. People who do not have government jobs and government health care, all paid for by you and me. People like John Boehner, Ted Cruz and Eric Cantor.

Remember that those conservative, small-government congressman looking to cut every and any benefit afforded to America's working poor are greedily feeding at the public trough themselves.

Another benefit of ACA is that kids can stay on their parents health plans until they're 26. An especially nice feature for this generation coming out of college with dismal job prospects.

Women gain some ground on the road to equality. Insurers can no longer charge them more for the same insurance benefits men get. If they had 8 more Democrats in the Senate back in June, it would also be illegal for employers to retaliate against women who inquire about pay disparities.

The main feature of Obamacare, one that will ultimately benefit all Americans (not so much Senators and Congressmen, they already have the best healthcare YOUR money can buy) is the growth of insurance exchanges. Some states have their own names for them. In Colorado it's called Connect For Health Colorado.

In the past, one or two insurance companies wrote all the policies for most states. Now it's an open market for large and small insurers to compete for your business. Premiums in many states are lower than the lower rates originally predicted. This is a benefit that you can enjoy right now and if you don't know how it works, just click here .

Consider this a public service announcement. Forget about the mind-boggling brinkmanship playing out in Washington. Reasonably-priced health care is something that everyone deserves. The government is not getting in between you and your doctor, they're helping you stand up to the insurance companies, the ones who have been getting between you and your health care forever.

There's no reason for Congress to be considering the Affordable Care Act right now. They've already tried to repeal it over 40 times. They tell us it's broke, but don't say how. They say it's "not ready for prime time," but no one seems to know what that means.

The fact that the websites crashed yesterday only means that Congress is wrong, that Americans want Obamacare. So many, in fact that the websites could not handle all the traffic. It's no different than if 4 of your friends tried to call you yesterday at the same time and 3 of them went to voice mail.

That would never happened to me, my phone hasn't rang in 3 days.

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