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Monday, February 19 Opinion

In the Suburbs / Dad of an adult child grateful for Obamacare

Love it or hate it, the Affordable Care Act -- otherwise known as Obamacare -- had enrolled 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline. Among them is our younger daughter, who signed up -- better late than never -- on the last day.

Please be assured, I'm not a big fan of the current administration. But I'm the grateful father of a woman with a chronic illness who now has coverage and won't be punished for having both a pre-existing condition and income.

Fortunately, our daughter is part of a program that pays for most of her very expensive medications. And, she learned that the Obamacare coverage she selected will take care of some of her other meds.

She had been paying nearly $300 a month for basic health coverage -- a sum that was not affordable for her -- after dropping another plan four years ago. We had been concerned ever since.

Her new policy under the Affordable Care Act will cost about $100 a month with a deductible of about $300 -- a bit high, I think. But she will now feel much more at ease about unexpected doctor visits and hospitalizations. At age 40, when little things begin happening to all of us, our daughter at last will have some peace of mind.

Back when the Affordable Care Act website opened to horrible reviews, we wondered what kind of nightmare the president had gotten us into. Engineers who designed the initial site kept wiping egg off their faces and reported pathetic enrollment figures in those first weeks.

But the president took responsibility for fixing the problem, a turnaround was reasonably quick, and with enrollment extended through March, the program ramped up.

Of course, there were more glitches along the way. Hundreds of thousands who had been assured by a naïve president that they wouldn't be dropped by their workplace insurance companies were dropped, creating a new national brouhaha. And the President, wiping egg off his own face, apologized yet again.

On Tuesday of last week, he stopped apologizing -- temporarily at least -- and celebrated the 7.1 million sign-ups. He reinforced that millions of young people through age 26 would be able to remain on their parents' policies and that seniors like me would get a break on prescriptions because the Affordable Care Act will eventually close more of the donut hole.

And on top of those fully enrolled by the deadline, another 3 million who had started but did not finish the process will be able to complete their enrollment. I can live with that.

I'm impressed that our Connecticut website for Affordable Care Act enrollment was among the top sites in the nation. Glad to know something in this state is working.

Like all politicians on a public relations high, Obama spoke about a dad who had been paying $30,000 annually in insurance premiums. Under the act, he said in a letter, he'll pay $9,000 a year, and the savings will help offset college tuition payments for his daughter.

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Our daughter said the enrollment process was tedious -- four hours on the phone from start to finish. She never was the most patient person, but she finally laughed when I told her there was no perfect system.

Now that open enrollment has ended, it remains to be seen how well the system will really work. I'll be anxious to hear that part from our daughter. The true judges will be those 7.1 million who enrolled.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.