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Olson: Let’s see what ‘Obamacare’ actually does

Published: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The guy talking on his cellphone outside the Hy-Vee gas station was aggravated.

“Insurance premiums (grumble grumble grumble) cost me more (grumble harrumph) Obamacare!”

I didn’t want to eavesdrop. Just trying to clean the bugs off the windshield. But I couldn’t help overhearing.

“It’s all because of this Obamacare!”

Doggone Obama and his care. Although I regret the day this phrase became part of the parlance of our times – with Barack Obama’s endorsement – it’s tough to say whether we will all regret when it became the law of the land.

The law itself is 900 pages long, covers broad swaths of society, and will no doubt have some unintended consequences – some predicted, others maybe not.

But with its fuller implementation just months away, we should at least see what happens.

The Daily Chronicle has written several stories about the Affordable Care Act this year, and on Tuesday, Illinois will launch its “Get Covered Illinois” health insurance exchange.

Then maybe, if the government doesn’t completely collapse beneath the weight of 21-hour speeches by bloviating blowhards and general inaction by our elected representatives in Congress, millions more people will have health insurance by Jan. 1.

Many of us who already had health insurance will be paying more, it seems, as insurance companies are forced to take on people with preexisting illnesses who in the past would have been turned down for being too great an insurance risk.

As many as 25 million people who did not have health insurance before could acquire it, although they might not all be happy to do so. Some people who prefer to fly without a net will be compelled to buy insurance or pay a fine – either way, something they will resent

But if Obamacare works as intended, we might pay less down the line, if more people have access to preventative medical care, hospitals are held to higher standards. Fewer people might end up bankrupt when they get sick, or bump into “lifetime caps” on coverage from health insurers.

That’s the theory, anyway. Of course, nobody really wants health insurance. They want the health care it supposedly guarantees. As people in the health care field have pointed out, having health insurance and having health care aren't necessarily the same thing. Things won’t get that much better if millions of new Medicaid customers can’t find a doctor willing to take them on as a patient.

But those who want to shoot the law down before it even has a chance to work should consider that the health care system in our society has been out of whack for decades, and America is unique among industrialized countries of the world in its general lack of provision for the health of its people.

We had a long time to come up with a way to address this problem. Now we have a grand scheme in place that’s been approved by all three branches of the federal government.

The arrow’s nocked and the bowstring drawn. Let's loose it.

Maybe the Affordable Care Act will come close to the target. Maybe it will be a disaster. I don't know for sure, and I don't believe anyone who claims they do.

If it is a disaster, no doubt the law will be repealed in short order. Even that will be difficult though, if those who aim to strike it down have no alternative to offer. That, at least, will be a win for the people.

The Daily Chronicle will be writing more on the topic as Jan. 1 creeps closer, and no doubt after it passes. We’ll be watching for the ripple effects of this landmark law here in our own community.

Irongate lives: The DeKalb City Council has given preliminary approval to ShoDeen’s plan to build about 1,200 homes near DeKalb High School, a couple of months after the plan failed to pass muster in a tie vote.

Since the last vote, 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker and 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary changed their “no” votes to “yes.”

Odds are that it will receive final approval when the council considers it again in October. Baker and O’Leary already have changed their votes once, it would be awfully strange for them to flip-flop a second time.

But this subdivision is coming in as part of an annexation agreement, which gives the council a lot of negotiating power. There’s no reason for the council to settle for less than exactly what they want to see there, with the build-out occurring at a measured pace. A lot of concerns about rental property and land donation have now been ironed out.

Speaking of iron, is there any chance “Irongate” is just a working title?

As one person mentioned to me recently, Irongate “sounds like you’re in ‘Game of Thrones’ battling House Lannister.”

Maybe they can come up with something a bit more pastoral to put on the monument sign outside the entrance.

Alarming tidbit: This week we had a disturbing story about a DeKalb man arrested on suspicion of distributing child pornography online.

The arrest came in part as a result of the efforts of a Sycamore police detective who joined the Illinois Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force in February. In the time the detective has been working with the task force, he has been involved in nine child porn cases, leading to the arrests of three DeKalb residents, a Sycamore resident, four cases referred to outside agencies and one ongoing investigation, Sycamore Police Sgt. Ron Swartzendruber said.

Many thanks to the police for pursuing those who target and exploit children. Offenders who are titillated by viewing these images are a tremendous risk to start acting them out. Our communities are safer with this work underway. No doubt the investigations can be stomach-turning.

It should give all parents pause to think that since February, there have been four local arrests. The man police arrested this week told police he had thousands of images of child pornography on his computer at his home in the 400 block of South Seventh Street in DeKalb.

We should still believe in a world where we can trust our neighbors. But these arrests are good reminders that we need to protect our children.

• Eric Olson is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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