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Age of ObamaCare Begins: Launch to test claims of law’s supporters, foes

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FILE: June 27, 2012: A patient talks with a doctor at Camillus Health Concern, in Miami. (AP)

The sales pitches for and against ObamaCare have all been made. It’s now up to Americans to judge whether the law works as advertised, as the so-called insurance “exchanges” launch Tuesday.

Against the backdrop of the aggressive congressional showdown over ObamaCare -- and partial shutdown of the federal government -- Tuesday is the day that Americans can finally log on to the insurance-purchasing websites to take a test drive and decide for themselves.

Exactly what will happen when millions attempt to buy insurance on the federal and state-based websites remains uncertain -- considering the well-documented software glitches in the prelude to enrollment day.

Yet broader questions also will be have to answered before federally subsidized coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014.

Among the issues is whether premium costs will be higher or lower compared with customers’ existing policies, and will Americans’ confusion about mandatory changes to the U.S. health care system become clear. Perhaps the ultimate question: Will the country benefit when an estimated 48 million uninsured Americans get access to coverage or will ObamaCare be the job-killing “train wreck” critics say it will be?

Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill battle over who’s right continued into the final hours, with the Republican-led House trying late into the night to delay the implementation of ObamaCare via a crucial spending bill.

“We continue to hear about the [negative] impact this law will have on families,” said Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, whose chamber has attempted to repeal or defund at least part of ObamaCare at least 40 times since it became law in 2010.

Within hours, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid returned to Washington from a weekend break to say: “Give it a little bit of time, ObamaCare is going to be supported by 90 percent of people, just like Medicare.”

The Nevada Democrat made his prediction amid polling that shows many Americans remain opposed to the law, or at least uninformed.

The finding of a Kaiser Family Foundation/ NBC survey released Monday found 51 percent of respondents thought they didn’t have enough information about the law to know how it would impact their families. In addition, 29 percent said they were angry about ObamaCare, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A joint poll earlier this month by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found 44 percent of respondents though ObamaCare was a bad idea, compared with 31 percent who thought it was a good idea. The poll also found 45 percent thought the law would have a negative impact on the county’s health care system. The results were similar to those in the groups’ July survey.

The costs of policies offered by private insurers vary among exchanges, often depending on the level of coverage, with some costing less and other costing more than existing ones.

In California, for example, the cost of insurance through the state exchange will be at least 14 percent higher for most residents, not including the elderly.

However, in New York, costs will drop roughly 29 percent, largely the result of competition among the private insurers in the exchange being infused into the already expensive regional market, according to a report released this month by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Still, if Americans are indeed wary customers, then they might want to be cautious of the salesmanship from President Obama, whom the Associated Press recently called “the insurance industry’s most powerful pitchman.”

The wire service said the president was “slippery” with his facts and rhetoric on several cost-related issues – including the claim that monthly cell-phone and insurance-premium costs will be about the same. However, the analogy holds true only when considering the lowest level of coverage and fails to account for such out-of-pocket expenses as copayments and deductibles, the AP reports.