July 29, 2014

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Consequences of repealing the health care law

Jan. 27, 2011

By Steve Mount

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known in some circles as “Obamacare.” The repeal vote, which passed on a party line vote (except for three Democrats who broke ranks), has largely been reported as symbolic for two important reasons.

First, the Senate, which is still (though just barely) held by the Democrats, will likely never even take up the repeal bill, let alone pass it.

Second, should the impossible happen and the repeal bill pass the Senate, the President would undoubtedly veto it. Given that, it would take an even more impossible two-thirds vote of Congress to override the veto.

So why even bother? Republicans have said it is because they made a promise to do so in their 2010 congressional campaigns, and the people had given them a mandate: repeal the health care law.

While I agree that the Republican sweep of the House was a message from the people, I don’t think it had a thing to do with the health care law. The law, in fact, contains many provisions that people are either very happy about or would be if they thought about the bill as more than “Obamacare.” The repeal effort is little more than a Republican gift to its real base — and that base is certainly not the people of the United States.

There are several key provisions that have not even gone into effect yet, but with repeal, the following important, existing features would disappear:

• Beginning almost immediately after the law took effect, children of covered persons could remain on their parents’ policy until age 26, unless covered by their own policy. Previous insurance company rules dropped children at the age of 19, or when they graduated from college. This requirement is now insuring an estimated 1.2 million people.

• Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. Being a Type 1 diabetic, this is of particular interest to me, and to 3 million others like me. And that’s just diabetes — there are scores of other conditions and diseases that can exclude a person from individual coverage. I’m fortunate to be covered by a corporate policy, but many others are not so lucky, and they are now protected.

• Lifetime limits are eliminated, meaning that if you have a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment, you need not worry about running your benefit out. Annual limits are still legal, but they are being phased out over the next three years.

• In the law, breastfeeding mothers must be given time to either breastfeed or pump breast milk during the workday. Loss of this provision would force some mothers to make a tough choice between working and staying home; between using breast milk and formula, a choice that can cost money not only immediately (in the form of savings on formula) but also in the long-run (in the form of health benefits to babies whose mothers are able to breastfeed).

• The law aims the soften the financial blow of the so-called Medicare Part D “Donut Hole.” Prior to the new health care law, seniors paid a coinsurance for drugs up to $2,840. After that, and up to $4,550, prescriptions were completely uncovered. The new law provides for a 50 percent discount for drugs purchased while in the $2,840 to $4,550 range, which can add up to considerable savings for those on a fixed income.

Different polls show different levels of support for repeal — but numbers that mean a “mandate?” A recent AP-GfK poll puts support for repeal at just 41 percent, with opposition to repeal at 40 percent. This 1-percent edge is hardly a mandate.

The “mandate” disappears when the details are examined. In the same poll, for example, support for a ban on the pre-existing existing condition exclusion stands at 50 percent, with 34 percent opposing such a ban (though the 34 percent who oppose make me muse at the respondents’ misanthropy).

Repealing the health care law, even if it could be done, would be a bad idea. What Democrats have done and need to continue to do is highlight how important this law is to so many people. As more and more of its provisions take effect, more and more people will be affected by it. By increasing coverage, we will increase the overall health of Americans and, in doing so, provide a stronger, healthier workforce to help America meet the challenges that face us in the evolving global economy.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at [email protected] or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.

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