New England editorial roundup

The Day of New London (Conn.), Sept. 27, 2013

Whether the Affordable Care Act can attract young, generally healthy people to buy individual health insurance through the new exchanges remains in question. Near universal participation will be paramount to making the health care program work. If large numbers of young to middle-age individuals choose instead to pay a tax penalty rather than buy insurance, higher premiums will result and the ACA will not meet the affordability goal.

On Oct. 1 individuals can start utilizing the exchanges to shop for health insurance. The days leading up to that landmark date have seen much information and many predictions released as to how things will play out, much of it contradictory and weighted by advocacy for or opposition to “Obamacare.”

In reality, no one can know for sure what will happen. This is an extremely complex way to achieve universal health coverage for Americans. The obvious alternative, essentially extending a Medicare-type system to all, was politically impossible — universally opposed by Republicans and by many moderate to conservative Democrats.

Instead, the nation got the ACA, intended to utilize the private health insurance market to provide universal coverage by creating competition on the exchanges, with tax credits for individuals to offset the cost. But the approach comes with protections and mandates that raise costs for insurers, who in turn will pass them along through higher premiums. These mandates include no denying coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, and free preventive services that include annual physicals, HPV DNA testing for women 30 or older, and colorectal screenings.

In a good news/bad news report this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that based on its analysis, individual premiums purchased on the exchanges would be on average $768 less per year than the Congressional Budget Office had estimated.

In Connecticut, however, the cost of a medium-range plan will be among the highest in the nation at $436 per month, compared with a national monthly average of $328. That is not surprising, however, given the high cost of health insurance found in the state now, tied to its high income and high cost of living statistics.

To mitigate the cost of premiums, tax credits will be available for individuals earning up to $46,000 annually and for a family of four up to $94,000, with the average credit of $2,700 per family, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

However, in a recent Forbes article, Obamacare critic Avik Roy said HHS released selective information. Those 40 and under and healthy will end up paying more for health insurance on the exchanges than they can buy it now, even accounting for tax credits. In 2014 that could lead many to opt to pay the tax penalty — 1 percent of income or $95 per person, whichever is higher — rather than buy insurance.

However things play out, there will need to be adjustments. Simply saying no to Obamacare is not a policy. Adjusting it or displacing it with a plan that meets the goal of making health insurance available to all Americans would be.

The Republican of Springfield (Mass.), Sept. 24, 2013

When the president of the United States sent a letter to the president of Iran, no one knew what might next occur.

Tehran could have simply refused the missive, marking it “return to sender.” Iranian militants could have protested in the streets, setting blazes, chanting slogans, once again denouncing our nation as “the great Satan.” Iran’s top political and religious leaders could have disagreed about the proper course of action, leaving in place today’s unhappy stalemate.

Instead, when President Barack Obama sent a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, none of those things transpired. Rouhani sent back a reply. And both sides made it known that they considered the correspondence a good first step.

Then, Iran’s supreme religious leader let it be known that Rouhani had his blessing to negotiate with the United States.

There are those who believe that sanctions are pointless, that diplomacy is for rubes, that our adversaries understand might and nothing else. The latest news from Iran shows them to be living in a world of their own sad imaginings.

Moving behind the tip of a sword is not the only way to make progress.

What we want at the end of the day is a nuclear-free Iran. The diplomatic overtures Obama has made are a start toward that goal.

There’ll be the usual assortment of military hawks, of course, who will dismiss the president’s moves — and Iran’s response — as nothing more than show, as just so much more time-wasting blather that will amount to nothing. Concerns about Iran’s sincerity are real.

But a couple of simple questions knock those arguments aside:

How has our non-diplomacy with Iran been working for the past 35 years? And how successful have we been in our various military engagements around the globe since World War II?

Talk isn’t always cheap; sometimes it offers the only reasonable course forward.

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