Filling gaps in Obamacare info

Even our congressmen are confused by Obamacare.

As reporter Daniel Malloy wrote on Wednesday, most of Georgia’s members of Congress – and the rest of the U.S. House and Senate – will have to find their health coverage on the new insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The question is whether the government should continue to subsidize their insurance, and you can imagine where Americans come down on that. Even if you set that squabble aside, however, the rules for Congress members and their staffs still aren’t clear.

Given that, it’s probably not surprising that the average Georgia citizen is having some trouble navigating the new law. In a new poll commissioned by the newspaper, nearly two-thirds of Georgians say they don’t have a good understanding of the law.

That’s a problem, since up to 20 percent of Georgians are immediately affected, facing decisions about the insurance exchanges that open Oct. 1. Those exchanges are for people who are not covered by their employer or other private insurance. (The law envisioned those below the poverty level being covered by Medicaid, but Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal decided not to expand Medicaid, citing the expense. That leaves those below the poverty level without an automatic insurance option.)

The state of Georgia, whose leaders opted not to set up an exchange, is also not helping much with information. Where other states are holding insurance fairs and have websites loaded with information, our state is actively working to thwart the law.

Here at the AJC, we’ve decided to step up our leadership in order to help resolve the information gap. Whether you support the law or oppose it, the notion that people need information about their options seems fairly obvious. And we aim to give that information.

This week we’re launching – a special area of our subscriber website that will provide ongoing, in-depth coverage about the implementation of Obamacare. Our research shows that this topic has huge interest among our subscribers, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

The launch coincides with the release of the poll we commissioned with the opinion research firm SRBI and includes a special report on how Obamacare affects businesses, individuals, health providers, the uninsured and young people.

We will continue building the site and adding in-depth information as the Affordable Care Act is implemented or changed. The site offers several interactive features that help you understand the law, including a calculator that estimates your costs on the exchange and a questions link, so you can ask us about how the law will affect you. also includes the most significant reporting we’ve published during the past year on Obamacare, including articles on the extraordinary political battles that have attended this law.

And you’ll find special features not directly connected to the law but directly related to your health: hospital infection rates in metro Atlanta, hospital-by-hospital charges for a variety of procedures and more.

Richard Halicks, one of our investigations editors who oversees health care investigations, is heading up the site and tailoring it to specific reader needs.

“Independent information that is specific to Georgia can be hard to come by,” Halicks said. “We’re making the go-to place in the state for information people can depend on.”

Halicks noted that even though it’s a national story, the ramifications are extremely local. “This major national story, of course, has created thousands of personal stories in Georgia, and we’re also tapping into those narratives to show how broadly and deeply the law affects Georgians.”

Key players in keeping the site up to date will be Misty Williams, our health care reporter, Carrie Teegardin, an investigative reporter who focuses on health care, and David Markiewicz, who covers the business aspects of health care, including issues facing employers and institutions such as hospitals and insurers.

Here’s what Teegardin, a veteran reporter, has to say: “Reporting on health care offers everything: important public policy, a host of investigative subjects, consumer issues that matter to every single person in our nation. And these days, it’s one of the biggest stories of our time. It’s an honor to have this assignment and it’s a challenge every single day.”

I agree with Carrie. It’s an honor and a challenge to bring you this important coverage. Please let us know what questions you have, what stories you think we are missing and how best we can serve your information needs in this important area.

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