Posts Tagged ‘repeal’

Income Disparities Impact Healthcare Availability

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

There are limited affordable choices for Americans who do not have health insurance through their jobs, especially for those with low and moderate incomes.  Few are Medicaid-eligible, and locating a plan on the individual market equals paying high premiums.  According to the Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of U.S. Adults, 2011, nearly 57 percent of adults aged 19 to 64 in families earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,726 for a family of four) were uninsured for a time in 2011 and 41 percent) were uninsured for a year or longer.  In contrast, only 12 percent of adults earning 400 percent of poverty or more ($89,400 for a family of four) were uninsured during the year, with four percent having no healthcare insurance for one year or longer.

The lack of health insurance significantly makes it difficult to get needed healthcare.  Low- and moderate-income adults who were uninsured in 2011 were much less likely to have a regular source of healthcare than those who did have insurance.  Additionally, uninsured low- and moderate-income adults were more likely to cite factors other than medical emergencies as reasons for going to the emergency room.  These included needing a prescription drug or lacking a regular primary-care physician.

The survey also demonstrates how vital Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are in providing health insurance to children in low- and moderate-income families.  More than 63 percent of adults with children under 133 percent of the poverty level and nearly 38 percent with incomes between 133 percent and 249 percent of poverty said that some or all of their children were covered by either program.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will expand the ability of Medicaid and CHIP to cover children and families by targeting adults in low- and moderate-income families who are at the greatest risk of lacking health benefits through a job.

When it becomes fully effective in 2014, the ACA will provide near-universal health insurance through a broad expansion of Medicaid, premium tax credits that cap premium contributions as a share of income for people purchasing private health plans through new state insurance exchanges.  Another benefit is new insurance market rules that prevent health insurers from denying coverage or charging people with pre-existing medical conditions higher premiums.

Or, as the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff puts it, “While the private insurance expansion could get thrown into limbo by the Supreme Court, there’s pretty widespread agreement that, absent full repeal of the bill, health reform’s Medicaid expansion is here to stay.  And that means a wide-reaching expansion of the entitlement program about two years from now.”

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s analysis, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the majority of the 52 million adults who did not have health insurance in 2010 will gain coverage beginning in 2014.  Millions more will benefit as their ability to afford the price of premiums and out-of-pocket costs improves.

Karen Davis, President of the Commonwealth Fund, said that “The silver lining is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already begun to bring relief to families.  Once the new law is fully implemented, we can be confident that no future recession will have the power to strip so many Americans of their health security.”

Amanda Peterson Beadle, writing on the thinkprogress.org website, notes that “The Affordable Care Act has already expanded health insurance to 2.5 million 19-to-25 year-olds, banned lifetime limits on health insurance coverage, created pre-existing condition insurance plans providing health insurance options to those who were often uninsurable, and required insurers to cover preventive care without requiring co-payments.  But the major provisions of the law to be implemented in 2014 will have the biggest effect on narrowing the income divide.”

Half of Americans Support Obamacare Repeal

Monday, November 28th, 2011

A recent Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Americans support the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), compared with the 42 percent who want the law kept in place.  The remaining 11 percent offered no opinion.  In an ironic twist, the survey also determined that half of Americans believe the federal government has a responsibility to make certain that all citizens have healthcare coverage, compared with 46 percent who do not.

“Views on this issue are highly partisan, with Republicans strongly in favor of repeal and the large majority of Democrats wanting the law kept in place,” according to Gallup.

Republicans claim that the healthcare law is unconstitutional because of the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance.  Approximately eight in 10 Republicans think Congress should repeal the healthcare law, including 54 percent who want the entire law thrown out.  Democrats have an opposing view: 60 percent support keeping the healthcare law as is.  Independents are split.

Fully 80 percent of Republicans support repeal, while a mere 10 percent support the law.  Democrats, not surprisingly support the healthcare law by 64 – 21 percent.  The intensity of the issue on both sides is also striking.  Among those who favor repeal of the so-called Obamacare, 66 percent say it is a “very important” issue.  Fully 60 percent of the ACA’s supporters described it is a “very important” issue.

Another finding of the survey is that 56 percent of respondents prefer an insurance system run by private companies; while 39 percent prefer a government-run system.

Writing for CBS News, Jennifer De Pinto says that “Even though overall support for the healthcare law is mixed, majorities have favored some individual elements of the law, including requiring health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.  However, the provision that requires all Americans get health insurance is not as popular.  A CNN/ORC Poll conducted this past summer found 54 percent of Americans oppose that provision.”

In a poll taken by the Kaiser Foundation, 34 percent said they view the law either “very” (12 percent) or “somewhat” (22 percent) favorably while 51 percent saw it in either as “somewhat” (20 percent) or “very” (31 percent) unfavorably.  In April 2010, the favorable view of the law was 50 percent only one time (July 2010).  With the exception of the October dip, support has generally been between 39 and 43 percent since the start of this year.  Even as the overall bill remains consistently unpopular, parts of it — including the individual mandate, which would require all Americans to carry health insurance — are viewed more positively.

Even if the Supreme Court overturns the ACA or it is repealed, President Barack Obama said that the healthcare law he signed in 2010 represents “a reform that will finally make sure that nobody goes bankrupt in America just because they get sick.”  Obama said the law assures coverage for people with preexisting medical conditions and is the kind of change he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign.  “Everything we fought for in the last election is now at stake in the next election,” Obama said.  “The very core of what this country stands for is on the line.”

Affordable Care Act Under Siege As It Celebrates Its 1st Birthday

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its first birthday, the future of the law is still unclear, but its effects have been enormous.  The debate over the law likely created the “tea party” movement.  Last November, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and strengthened their numbers in the Senate.  Potential contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination need only say one word, “Obamacare,” to get a negative reaction from a crowd.  President Obama at times himself has struggled to ensure that his first term isn’t defined solely by this legislation.

Public opinion over the ACA remains divided, despite the efforts of Democrats to showcase how it will provide healthcare insurance to millions of uninsured Americans.  Additionally, most Americans remain confused about what the healthcare overhaul actually accomplishes.  Republicans considering a 2012 presidential race for the most part stand united in their opposition to the legislation.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is using his opposition to the law to gain a national following.  “If courts do not do so first, as president, I would support the immediate repeal of Obamacare and replace it with market-based healthcare reforms,” Pawlenty said.  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is in a different position because he supported a similar law during his tenure.

Representative Steve King (R-IA), the Iowa Congressman who is in the vanguard to repeal the ACA, says that “America will never become the nation it can be if were saddled with Obamacare“, “I have a deep conviction that this is unconstitutional, that this is unsustainable, and I have a duty.  And that doesn’t mean I sit back and wait for the Supreme Court to save America from itself.  It’s my job to step up and lead.”

Taking a difference stance, Carmela Coyle, president and chief executive of the Maryland Hospital Association, said her group strongly supports the reform law and will work to assure that the effort translates into better and cost-effective care.  “We support healthcare reform because hospitals see every day what happens when patients don’t have the healthcare coverage they need and can’t get their care at the right time and in the right setting.  Expanding coverage was necessary, and it was right.  We must ensure that the health coverage now guaranteed to many Marylanders is meaningful coverage.”

What’s the future of the Affordable Care Act? House Republicans, who say the law gives the federal government too much control and doesn’t cut costs, passed a repeal bill after they became the majority in January.  Full repeal is unlikely unless Republicans successfully take control of the Senate and the presidency in the 2012 presidential elections.  The current Democratic-led Senate will not vote to repeal and President Obama would certainly veto a repeal bill.  Democrats argue the law’s reforms will slow the growth of healthcare costs while improving care and reducing the ranks of the uninsured.  Republican efforts to withhold funds to block the law’s implementation will be DOA in the Senate.  That leaves Republicans the option of picking apart the law regulation by regulation, a strategy that could prove more successful.

In the meantime, implementation is underway.  “As we look forward with implementation of the health reform law, the states really become the focus now,” said Jennifer Tolbert, a principal policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.  “When thinking about the coverage expansions in particular because it is going to be up to the states to implement the expansion of the Medicaid program for lower-income individuals and to create the new health-insurance exchanges that will provide access to private insurance for moderate and middle income individuals.”

Nearly 50 Percent of Americans Think the Healthcare Law Has Been Repealed – They’re Wrong!

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Defying the odds – and facing President Barack Obama’s veto pen – the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA); a move that was DOA in the Senate.

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, approximately 50 percent of Americans are convinced that the healthcare law has been successfully repealed.  A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found widespread public confusion about the law, with 22 percent of Americans incorrectly believing it has been repealed and another 26 percent unsure or unwilling to say. Even after extensive media coverage of the repeal effort, only 52 percent of Americans accurately responded that the healthcare law remained intact.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “There remains no consensus about whether to keep, expand, replace or repeal the law.  Forty-eight percent are opposed to the law, while 43 percent favor it.  Sixty-one percent of those polled oppose Congress cutting off funding of the law in order to block it, as many Republican lawmakers are considering.”

The Republican-sponsored repeal bill, curiously named the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed 245 – 189 with assistance from three Democrats.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has refused to bring repeal to the Senate floor for a vote.  President Obama has vowed to veto any repeal effort.  Republicans have not introduced an alternative bill, although Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said Republicans will ask congressional committees to make “common-sense reforms” to expand coverage and cut costs, but told reporters no “artificial deadlines” were needed.

“As has been true since early in the debate, individual provisions of the new law are more popular than the law itself, complicating the debate over repeal,” the study notes. “So while the public in general is divided over whether to keep or repeal the legislation, if they could pick and choose, the large majority (roughly eight in 10 Americans) would keep the provisions providing tax credits to small businesses, and upward of seven in 10 would keep the provisions that close the Medicare doughnut hole, provide coverage subsidies to those of low and moderate income, institute the new voluntary long-term care insurance program known as the CLASS Act, and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”

According to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 32 percent of Americans would like to see the law repealed; 13 percent want to see the bill left as it stands. The poll found that 29 percent of Americans want to see minor changes and that 24 percent want major changes.  Representative Ben Chandler, (D-KY), who voted against the law last year, said he voted against repeal because he thinks the law’s “bad” parts should be repealed piece by piece.  “I will not vote to repeal parts of the law that protect central Kentuckians by preventing insurance companies from dropping people if they get sick, ending lifetime caps on coverage and eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions,” Chandler said.

Implementation of the law is continuing as planned, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “I want the people who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act — including families, seniors and small business owners — to know that this vote does not change the law and that this department will continue to work every day to implement this vital law.”

Obama Calls the States’ Bluff on Healthcare Law Implementation

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

President Barack Obama is calling the states’ bluff on implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) by allowing them to opt out of its most onerous requirements three years earlier than currently permitted. Speaking at a meeting of the National Governors Association, Obama specifically pointed to a proposal from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA) which he endorsed as a flexible approach.  “If you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead,” Obama said, noting that, “If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does, without increasing the deficit, you can implement that plan and we’ll work with you to do it.”

The president endorsed the proposal to allow states to apply for “innovation waivers” beginning in 2014, three years earlier than originally scheduled. Under the terms of these waivers, states would be exempt from several of the law’s requirements if they set up their own method of adequately expanding coverage.  The “individual mandate” is the focus of multiple state lawsuits by states that contend it is unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has posted a detailed fact sheet on the proposal on the White House website. Additionally, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has blogged about it.

Despite lingering opposition to the healthcare reform law, the Obama administration is moving ahead with its implementation.  Over the last 10 months, HHS has made $2.8 billion available to states to help them start reforming their healthcare systems.  These funds let the states invest in improvements.  These investments are showing signs of progress thanks to more comprehensive oversight of insurance premium increases, new rights and protections for consumers, additional choices for people living with medical conditions, and the elimination of some of the worst insurance industry practices.

The bipartisan proposal’s future is uncertain, with both Democrats and Republicans casting wary eyes at it. Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House majority leader, said the healthcare law is “an impediment to job growth” and that he is still committed to repealing the ACA.  “I was disappointed,” said Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) and chairman of the Republican Governors Association.  “Pretty much all he did was to reset the clock on what many of us consider a ticking time bomb that is absolutely going to crash our state budgets.  The states need more than that.”  Even some Democrats are cautious because they believe that it is impossible to expand healthcare coverage and reduce the deficit without the federal mandate.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said “We want to give states as much flexibility as possible, but that flexibility shouldn’t fail to ensure that Americans in every state have access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

Writing in the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen asks “So, how big a deal is this?  It marks a fairly significant departure from the administration’s status quo, but at its root, what we’re seeing is the White House call Republicans’ bluff.  The GOP is convinced it can offer comparable coverage at comparable prices using Republican-friendly policies.  Today, in effect, the president said, ‘Be my guest.’  Why?  Because Obama knows it’ll take more than tort reform and HSAs to make the system work, and he sees a political upside to watching GOP officials scramble to actually craft their own plans, rather than bash his.”

President Obama also made it clear that the federal government is moving forward with healthcare reform. “I am not open to refighting the battles of the past two years or undoing the progress that we have made, but I am willing to work with anyone, governors or members of Congress, to make this law better…and fix what needs fixing,” Obama said.

A CLASS Act

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The Obama administration is fending off critics of the CLASS Act, a voluntary insurance program created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act designed to assist individuals who require long-term care and who want to remain in their communities. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is looking into revisions to assure that the program is financially self-sustaining.  The Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act (CLASS Act), which HHS will oversee, is envisioned as providing cash benefits to be used for non-medical expenses, such as paying for a home health aide or a family member to provide care, make modifications to the home and provide special transportation needs.

Opponents to the CLASS Act, such as the Heritage Foundation’s Brian Blase, argue that the program won’t support itself and could become a burden to taxpayers.  Blase says the program is “a Ponzi scheme that transfers money from current payees to current beneficiaries.”  Some Republicans are even calling for the law’s repeal.  Sebelius disagrees, noting that her department is looking at options to make certain that doesn’t happen.  She emphasized the importance of attracting healthy, less-costly people to the program to rein in costs and said that her department is “looking at options for indexing premiums so they would rise along with benefits.”  In addition, she wants to “close loopholes” that would let people drop out of the program and then return without paying a penalty.

According to Howard Gleckman, Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute, “A key goal of national long-term care insurance is to reduce the role of Medicaid, which today pays for more than 40 percent of all personal care for seniors and others with disabilities. While Medicaid provides a critical safety net, it also often forces the disabled into the wrong care, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  For instance, most benefits go only to those in nursing homes, even though they are often the last place people want to live.  And to qualify, people normally are allowed to keep only a few thousand dollars of financial assets and earn only a few hundred dollars a month.”

To the extent that national long-term care insurance can cut the number of people who go broke and turn to Medicaid for help, both states and the federal government will also be winners.  Fully a third of Medicaid’s budget, or more than $100 billion a year, is spent on long-term care.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicaid will absorb a stunning one-sixth of all federal tax revenues by 2050, and is putting financial pressure on states to pay nearly 50 percent of its costs.

So, how does Congress fix the CLASS Act?  First, CLASS needs to be an insurance-only program.  http://www.sacbee.com/2011/02/14/3401075/fix-the-class-act-dont-repeal.html Congress should make personal assistance benefits available to working people with disabilities – but through a separate program.  Second, employers should be encouraged to include this insurance in their employee benefit plans.  CLASS will succeed only with significant enrollment, so Congress should add incentives that will encourage employers to interest their employees in the program.  Finally, Congress should create an independent fund to accumulate and invest CLASS premiums.  This would end the budget gimmickry that troubles deficit hawks.  More important, it would assure participants that they are buying real insurance and not just exchanging their premium dollars for government IOUs.

“Someday, perhaps, the United States will make the choice that nearly every other major developed nation in the world has already made.  And that is to create a national, mandatory, long-term care insurance system funded by some mix of taxes and premiums.  Coverage could be provided by private insurers – just as the Medicare Part D drug benefit is today – or it could be run by the government,” according to Gleckman.  “Given our current anti-government, anti-tax climate, this won’t happen any time soon.  But that doesn’t mean our long-term care needs are going away.  It costs more than $200-a-day, on average, to stay in a nursing home.  Home health aides cost $20 per hour.  And after reaching age 65, more than two out of three of us will need some long-term care before we die.  We are woefully unprepared both as families and as a society for these needs, and the problem will only get worse as 77 million baby boomers age.  Medicaid is not the answer.  Neither is repealing CLASS.”

Healthcare Law Repeal DOA in Senate; Likely Headed to the Supreme Court

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The Republican House of Representatives’ attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was DOA — as expected — in the Democratic-controlled Senate.  Voting along strict party lines, all 50 Democratic Senators who were present and one Independent gave the repeal a thumbs down.  All 47 Republican Senators voted in favor of repeal.  Two Senators – one a Democrat and the other an Independent – were not present to vote.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) delivered a scornful speech during the heated debate, saying the Republicans are offering “one more hollow, symbolic pander-to-the-masses amendment.  If you want to rewrite the bill, keep your promise, Republican Party, that if you want to repeal, then let’s go replace.  I want to hear their ideas for replacement.  I challenge them right here, right now, today on this amendment.”  Not surprisingly, Republican Senate leaders disagree with Senator Mikulski’s stance. “We think it is just the beginning,” Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KR-KY) said Wednesday after the Senate voted to reject an amendment he offered to repeal the law.  “This issue is still ahead of us and we will be going back at it in a variety of ways,” McConnell noted.  “We’ll be looking at it in every different way to revisit it.”

The Republicans can claim a small victory as the Senate voted to repeal the 1099 requirement that was a highly unpopular inclusion in the healthcare reform law. Many perceived this as a tax on healthcare consumers and small businesses because it required anyone performing a transaction equaling $600 or more to file a 1099 form with the IRS.  The cost of the requirement had the potential to add up to 40 percent for some small businesses, which could have resulted in closures or layoffs.  The amendment passed the Senate by an 81 – 19 vote and has President Barack Obama’s support. Opponents of the amendment, such as Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), said that Congress, not the White House, should wield the budget-cutting ax.

The Senate’s actions come on the heels of a decision by Florida Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson that it is unconstitutional for Congress to pass a healthcare law that requires Americans to obtain insurance coverage.  Judge Vinson’s decision created a 2 – 2 tie in lower courts. According to Judge Vinson’s decision, “The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker.”

Judge Vinson’s decision increases the likelihood that the Affordable Care Act will end up in front of a Republican-dominated Supreme Court. “A year ago, it was a long shot,” said Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University.  “Now, it’s seen as a 5 to 4 case.  And nobody’s sure which way the 5 – 4 will come down.”  The stakes are enormous for the defining achievement of the Obama presidency.  The decision also has the potential to define the limits of federal power for generations.  “This case could define federalism for the next 100 years,” said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional law professor.  “This is a very difficult case for the Supreme Court as an institution.  You have a slight majority of the states opposing it.  You have a national law that’s affecting hundreds of billions of dollars and services.  This is the type of case the justices do not relish.”

Additionally, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked the Supreme Court to fast track his state’s challenge to the healthcare law, saying he thinks the legal dispute has become so important that the nation’s highest court should take it up immediately. “We want to eliminate the uncertainty in both our governmental budgets and in the private sector,” he said.  “We want to eliminate at least the uncertainty associated with health care.” The Obama administration opposed the move, saying the case should follow the regular process.  This would put off until 2012 a Supreme Court ruling on the law that aims to provide more than 30 million uninsured Americans with medical coverage and cracks down on unpopular insurance industry practices.

One Year Later, the Healthcare Battle Continues on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

With Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, a battle royal is shaping up on Capitol Hill over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka the healthcare reform law.   The house has already passed a bill that symbolically repeals the law, and each chamber is holding hearings – the Senate Democrats to sing the praises of healthcare reform and the House Republicans to point out what is wrong with it.   Named “Repealing The Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, the legislation passed the House and is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.  “The ‘job killing’ charge is ‘demonstrably ridiculous’:  The GOP’s ‘farcical’ claim that healthcare reform will cause job losses is ‘transparently false,’” according to Steve Benen, writing in a Washington Monthly article.

Although polls show little change in Americans’ understanding of the law, Democrats see the GOP-driven debate as giving them another opportunity to tout the bill’s benefits.  Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research, says that strategy could be particularly effective with women, a critical voting group.  “They’re the healthcare voters and the healthcare decision makers,” she said.  Lake warns that Democrats need to shift the dialogue from how the law impacts the federal budget to stories about real people and how the new law has helped them.  “You win women back by telling them that if their kids have asthma and it’s a pre-existing condition, they won’t be covered anymore,” she said.  The law’s symbolic repeal, according to Lake, is “the first sign of tension that Republicans face of how do you keep the tea party base and still appeal to independent women who were the key swing voters in 2010 and will be again in 2012.”

President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech that he is open to fixing some parts of the Affordable Care Act.  “President Obama outlined a vision for our nation’s future that includes key American Medical Association priorities, such as lowering healthcare costs through medical liability reform, improvements to the new health reform law and investments in biomedical research,” said AMA president Dr. Cecil Wilson.  Additionally, Wilson is pleased that the president acknowledged that certain improvements should be made, such as eliminating the 1099 filing requirement that requires businesses to file a form with the Internal Revenue Service for every vendor with which they have had at least $600 in transactions.  The president stressed that he will not turn back the clock completely. “What I’m not willing to do…is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition,” he said.

One group that is applauding the symbolic repeal of the healthcare law is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has pledged to fight government regulations that it believes will challenge American competitiveness.

In the recent “State of American Business”, Chamber president Thomas Donahue said “Workers who have been banking on employer-based coverage when they retire are being told not to count on it. And as premiums rise, thanks in part to the law’s new mandates, many companies are thinking about ending their employer-based plans, and moving workers into government-run exchanges.  By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

GOP Vows to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Newly empowered GOP sets its sights on rolling back healthcare reformNow that the GOP has retaken control of the House of Representatives, one of their overarching goals – according to Speaker-of-the-House-to-be John Boehner (R-OH) – is to repeal the landmark Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act that would provide healthcare coverage for millions of Americans who now have no insurance.

In Boehner’s own words, “The American people are concerned about the government takeover of healthcare,” he said.  “I think it is important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity and replace it with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of healthcare insurance in America.”  “Republicans will roll back whatever they can on healthcare,” noted Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director.

Yet, there’s no hard evidence that the Republicans want to replace the current law with their own version of healthcare reform.  The GOP vision would give states the power to fund programs that extend coverage to some uninsured Americans.  People would also be allowed to carry insurance policies across state lines.  Mandates and government-run insurance pool would be non-existent.  Additionally, Republican legislation would cap court malpractice awards and help people direct more pretax money into healthcare savings accounts.  The Republican plan is anticipated to cut deficits by $68 billion over a decade.  On the downside, it would cover only about three million of the uninsured, leaving 52 million Americans with no healthcare coverage, according to Douglas Elmendorf, who is currently the Congressional Budget Office director.

There’s a significant roadblock in the way of the Republicans’ healthcare plan:  the presidential veto, which can be overturned only by a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress.  “It would be a symbolic vote – a vote of intention rather than reality,” said Joseph Antos of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

Complicating the situation is the fact that some aspects of healthcare reform already in effect are quite popular, such as the provisions forcing insurers to cover children with pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep kids up to age 26 on their policies.

Republicans “A Pledge to America” Vows to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

House Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.Republicans are threatening to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of their “A Pledge to America” proposal.  On the six-month anniversary of healthcare reform’s enactment, House Republicans issued their “Pledge” , which proposes overturning the law and replacing it with “real reforms” focusing on medical liability reforms to control “junk lawsuits” and defensive medicine.  Other elements of the “Pledge” would expand health saving accounts; ban taxpayer funding of abortion; allow people to buy insurance across state lines; assure access for patients with pre-existing conditions by expanding state high-risk pools and reinsurance programs; as well as cutting the cost of coverage.

According to Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the president for special projects, “The (Republicans’) agenda claims to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but it repeals the new law’s ban on discriminating against uninsured Americans, including children who have a pre-existing condition.  It will mean that seniors will pay more for their prescription drugs, and their new free preventive Medicare benefits will be cut.”

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, noted that the GOP proposal “will raise taxes by more than $40 billion on up to four million small businesses that provide health benefits to their employees…and will result in premium increases by eliminating the billions of dollars in cost-saving measures.”

Democratic lawmakers assailed the “Pledge” as recycled ideas that will only intensify the nation’s problems.  “Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of Americans and threatened our economy,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Even if Republicans vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama still has the power to veto their legislation.  It’s likely that he would use his veto power to protect one of his major legislative achievements.