Saturday, July 21, 2012
Lots to like in health care law
- Is there still freedom after speech?
- More than two positions on abortion
- Move past our history of violence
- Cox is a willing partner
- Commentary archive
From the RoundTable blog
Read the latest entries
Republicans, hoping to regain the Senate and presidency this fall, are vilifying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as something bad for America. Reps.Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, Bob Goodlatte and Eric Cantor, Gov. Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senate hopeful George Allen and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney want voters to elect Republicans so the act can be repealed.
Central to their objections is the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. It calls for a penalty for those who choose not to purchase their own health coverage. Opponents see this as government requiring people to buy a product. The fact is, we're already required to buy several products, Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) being one.
While we don't have to buy Medicare Part B (out-of-hospital coverage) or Part D (drug coverage) when we first become eligible, if we don't and need it later, a penalty is added to the premium. But at least we can still get it. Try buying fire insurance when you need it.
The Affordable Care Act penalty won't exceed the cost of the cheapest health coverage available.
Insurance works because those of us who have it and don't use it are helping those who do use it. The individual mandate is there to bring as many people as possible into the insurance pool. Increasing the pool brings the costs down for all.
Ironically, the concept of individual mandates was first proposed by the politically conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989. In 2006, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a health care reform act — with bipartisan support — containing an individual mandate. Initially it was praised by Republicans. Sen.Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said during Romney's 2008 presidential bid that he had the ability to "take some good conservative ideas, like private health insurance, and apply them to the need to have everyone insured."
Because it's complex, the Affordable Care Act is vulnerable to misinformation. Republicans are now leveraging that into what they hope will mean victory in November.
Don't expect them to tell you what will be lost:
>> For those of you with a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the act has reduced your share of brand-name drugs while in the coverage gap, the "doughnut hole," to 50 percent of the costs and would phase out the gap by 2020. If the act is repealed, you'll be back to paying 100percent.
>> Young adults, if you're dependent on your parents, the provision allowing you to stay on their plan until you're 26 will be gone. You'll be on your own at age 21.
>> Anyone wanting health coverage, you can expect much higher premiums or reduced coverage or both if you have pre-existing conditions. You might not be able to get any coverage at all.
>> For handicapped adults unable to work and being cared for by your parents, if you need medical coverage, it'll have to be Medicaid.
>> Gone, too, will be the 80/20 rule requiring insurance companies to spend no more than 20percent of collected premiums on administrative costs and at least 80percent on health services. Any amount less must be rebated to the consumer.
For example, in 2011 Anthem Health Plans of Virginia spent only 79.7percent on health care for its customers and must rebate 0.3percent of the premium that each customer paid.
>> For the worst health cases, repeal will allow your insurance company to reinstate lifetime limits.
So what is there here to reject?
Even before the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, we needed only to consider that, among other things, our Constitution was established to "promote the general welfare." Affordable health care certainly does that.
Our Declaration of Independence avows that we are entitled to "the pursuit of happiness." What is more fundamental to happiness than good health?
The strength of our democracy is knowing that we all have each others' backs — loved ones, friends and strangers alike; that we are always striving to make our American community better.
Do we really want to renege on the pledge our forefathers made to each other "to form a more perfect union"?