WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 — Happy Birthday, Obamacare! Republicans tried to throttle you, but you lived to see the light of day and all our lives are better for it.
Of course not everyone is celebrating. The House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare (aka Affordable Health Care Act) 36 times since you were born. And the naysayers among Democrats say you didn’t go far enough, which you didn’t, but it was the only compromise President Obama could get through at the time.
Someday, when it comes time for tweaking Obamacare, maybe Congress will be ready for a single-payer system and real health care reform, but until then, there are still lots of reasons to say, “Thanks, Obamacare.”
Even though most Americans are not fond of Obamacare, as many polls show, and some are even downright hostile, but when asked about individual provisions of Obamacare, they change their tune, saying by large majorities, that they like those.
The problem is that Obamacare is not fully implemented and won’t be till 2014, so the good points are not yet truly apparent to most of us. However, many significant changes have already happened and will now start to accelerate, making our lives healthier, more solvent, and better.
Don’t believe it? Then take a look at some of the goodies that Obamacare already provides and some that are to come, starting with four areas that are already in place.
1. Money in your pocket: Private insurers must now spend at least 80 to 85% of the premiums they receive on medical claims or improved quality or they owe us a rebate. Last year, the insurance companies had to pay $1.1 billion in rebates or $151 per family. CEO bonuses no longer take priority over the consumer.
2. No annual limits: Insurers can no longer impose annual limits on what they will pay or lifetime dollar limits, especially important for people with really serious illnesses.
3. Premiums are falling and will continue to fall: Despite the rumors to the contrary, Obamacare has reduced insurance premiums. In fact, the average premium in 2012 was 30% lower than it was just two years before. Any rate hike over 10% has to be justified by the insurance company.
4. Protecting the sick: * Your insurance company can’t drop your coverage if you get sick. * You are assured of free preventive care without co-pays or deductibles such as for birth control or colonoscopies. * Now young adults under 26 can stay on their parents’ health plan, a huge plus in these tough economic times that have slammed families. * And children under 19 cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition like asthma or leukemia.
1. Ending discrimination:
Starting in January 2014, insurance companies can no longer charge higher rates based on your gender or charge higher rates based on your health status, disability, your genetic information, or even your history of claims.
2. Protecting the sick: * Just as with children, starting next year, people with pre-existing conditions will be protected. * Those people participating in clinical trials to treat their illness cannot be dropped from their insurance. * Payments to rural health care providers will increase to help that underserved community. * Medicaid will be available to those Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level.
3. Members of Congress will no longer be a special class: Members of the Senate and House will now have to buy the same kind of insurance as the rest of us with the same kind of access to health care choices we will have, and they must purchase their insurance through their state exchanges. That includes their considerable staffs as well.
4. A boon to small businesses: Starting in 2014, the tax credit will increase for small businesses providing health insurance to their employees. This builds on the tax credit of 2010 by increasing it up to 50% of the employer’s contribution to an employee’s contribution.
5. Exchanges will kick in: Affordable Health Insurance Exchanges set up in each state and by that state will establish a marketplace for individuals, small businesses and families to buy coverage. Most people who can afford it will be required to buy health insurance through an Exchange or get it through their employer. Workers who can’t afford coverage may be eligible for an exemption. For full information on Exchanges and what is available, go to HealthCare.gov, which explains simply and directly all the details on how to get insurance coverage under Obamacare.
However, it is that very individual mandate that people truly hate while liking 10 out 11 key components of Obamacare.
Yet without the individual mandate, Obamacare doesn’t work: everyone has to have coverage since everyone at some time or other will need health care and we as a people can no longer pay for the care of the uninsured. And don’t forget, President Obama adopted that idea from the Republicans, and Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate last year.
So Happy Birthday, Obamacare. You are still very young, but already you have reined in the health insurance industry, putting a lid put on some of its worse abuses. Soon health insurance will be extended to millions of Americans, making everyone healthier while lowering the high cost of health care for all of us.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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