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My Healthcare—and Yours—Hangs in the Balance

With the Supreme Court ruling on 'Obamacare' expected any day now, our 'Patch In' columnist explains why she hopes the justices will let the law stand.

 

My family may lose our health insurance this coming Saturday.

But by this Thursday, millions of people will find out if they will be able to afford healthcare coverage as spelled out in President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—more familiarly known as “Obamacare.”

Sometime this week, the Supreme Court will hand down its decision on the constitutionality of ACA, likely by this Thursday.  One of the major objections opponents have to the law is whether or not the government can mandate that all citizens have to buy or secure health insurance—the ‘individual mandate.’ They argue it’s unconstitutional, and that government cannot force anyone to buy anything.

Healthcare coverage is not just divisive legally; it’s a hot-button topic academically, politically, economically, and, of course, personally. When my husband was laid off 18 months ago, in addition to immediately questioning how we’d keep paying the mortgage and put food on the table, the biggest question was, “What about medical coverage?”

Thankfully, his former employer offered coverage through COBRA. It was an incredibly expensive option, but it allowed us to maintain coverage at exactly the same level we’d been used to, albeit at a costlier level.

COBRA only lasts 18 months.  As of this writing we have four days left.

Now facing the myriad search for health insurance, we’ve filled out an application for a plan. At least with the options we considered at the price we could afford, we were presented with plans that didn’t cover maternity or mental health. Fingers crossed, we’ll get the approval—we have children, and we want coverage for wellness care as well as for the ‘god forbid’ situations. But to do so we had to detail every bump, bruise, diagnostic procedure, doctor visit, medical problem and possible family history issue of the last 10 years. We wondered, would anything raise a flag and possibly prevent us from getting coverage?

There’s family history of colon and stomach cancer; would routine screenings still be covered for that? What about family history of thyroid cancer; would I still be able to have a yearly ultrasound screening to check, even without incidence of the disease myself? Would the one visit we made to the E.R. exactly nine years and 11 months ago lower our chances for being approved?

Everyone has a story, some more sob story than others, when it comes to coverage. I have a friend who has MS, and no matter that she has been gainfully employed since forever and a day, she’s unable to secure healthcare coverage at all. During the debate over the ACA in Congress, stories popped up daily of individuals who would otherwise suffer unless the legislation passed.

There are passionate arguments and rational defenses of both sides. Of course, I’m encouraged when even a conservative writes to defend the constitutionality of the ACA. For me, I think this is a law that should be upheld. There are several important things that will be supported by the passage of this law, and should it be struck down by an activist court, we stand to lose greatly.

  1. More than 30 million Americans who are currently without healthcare coverage, will be able to find coverage because of the ACA.
  2. Small businesses will have more ability to find competitive pricing on plans and they’ll get tax credits for providing insurance for their employees.
  3. No longer will Americans with pre-existing conditions be denied insurance coverage, as of 2014.
  4. Other disenfranchised groups will have more protection and ability to keep or find coverage—including early retirees and lower income families. Also, more than 3.1 million young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health care plans through the age of 26.

These advantages not only benefit the individual but they truly serve our business community—small businesses will be able to attract and keep employees by being able to provide attractive benefit plans; workers can better maintain their health, keeping up their ability to work and increasing productivity. Economically, it will be a fairer marketplace.

Interestingly, the public, for the most part, supports the separate parts of the law, but when asked whether they support Obamacare, 56 percent of them say no, according to a Reuters poll out this past Sunday. Over 60 percent are opposed to the individual mandate. To me, that says the Republicans have done a much better P.R. campaign than the Democrats and the Obama administration have.

Who knows how the Supreme Court justices will rule this week. It’s so up in the air that, according to the New York Times, last week House Speaker John Boehner issued a memo to his fellow Republicans, stating, “We will not celebrate at a time when millions of our fellow Americans remain out of work, the national debt has exceeded the size of our nation’s economy, health costs continue to rise, and small businesses are struggling to hire.” The question is whether all Republicans agree that absolute for or against isn’t what is best for the public—or for their future electability.

Healthcare is such a complex, difficult animal to legislate, it’s remarkable that any legislation got through at all, given how much disagreement there has been during this administration and failures during past ones.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court justices decide to keep moving the country in a forward direction—and perhaps the voters will have their final, Democratic say about it, come November.

 

MAC July 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Franklin, you make some good points about the unfairness of an employer based health coverage system in which those not covered don't get the same tax advantages or group rates. But, did you know that it was GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE with the free market that brought about this unfairness?!! It came about because of government "wage/price controls" during World War II. Because employers were not allowed to pay 'competitive' wages, they competed for the best employees by offering paid health care and other benefits. If government would address these basic issues, and break down the barriers against market competition over state lines, which they put there, then a much better, consumer determined and less costly system would be created. Further, people should NOT look at routine predictable medical expenses, such as physicals, vaccinations etc. as something that should be either INSURED or PROVIDED by the government!! The concept of "insurance" means that people protect THEMSELVES by grouping together to pay premiums in case of UNKNOWN risks! Thus, the concept of medical insurance has become grossly abused or at least distorted. It is totally preposterous and wrong, for instance, to mandate that insurance companies charge the same rates for men and women on life insurance as well as health care, when the RISKS are different! If you are a safe driver, do you want to pay the same rates for auto insurance as a reckless one, who drinks??
MAC July 11, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Here are some other facts you probably were not aware of: In addition to the 2,700 pages in OBAMATAX, which most DEMS in congress did not "read before they voted for it"!!!--there are already some 13,000 additional pages of REGULATIONS over your health care choices, which is just a beginning!! ..."Obamacare will increase premiums by 19-30 percent ..."Some low-income individuals would benefit from Obamacare’s subsidies; for those individuals, the impact of these premium increases would be blunted. But if premium costs go up at a rate faster than people expect, taxpayers will be on the hook for billions upon billions of extra subsidies."... "Obamacare’s biggest change to the insurance market: its requirement that insurers take on all comers irrespective of pre-existing conditions, a.k.a., 'guaranteed issue.'... "We cannot incorporate the effects of the ban on pre-existing conditions exclusions. This ban will cause a rise in premiums as insurers are forced to cover conditions that they had previously excluded. In addition, there are new premium taxes on insurers that will raise premium rates…Overall, we cannot predict the net impacts of these factors on premiums without more analysis." http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2012/03/22/how-obamacare-dramatically-increases-the-cost-of-insurance-for-young-workers/
Franklin Wong July 12, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Government interference as you call it is necessary and is at it's essence as to what defines a nation. The lack of government interference is more dangerous than an excess of government interference. When free markets as well as governments are left unchecked the results more often than not have proven disastrous. When 250 million plus citizens have health insurance and some number between 10 and 50 million would desire health insurance in order to receive some standard of health care, I would think that the government has an obligation to interfere and step in. Government oversight of the health of it's citizens is appropriate legally, constitutionally and morally. By the way as to the drunk driver. The convicted drunk driver and I emphasize convicted, is insured at relatively low rates and cannot be denied insurance. The relatively low rates paid by the drunk is in part paid for through the uninsured driver premium and a pool of premiums charged to all insured. The logic of this is that driving unlike health is considered essential to the individual and denies that that person of their rights.
Franklin Wong July 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Where I hope we can all find agreement. In the US, health care costs are rising at a pace that is much faster than our ability to pay for it and this is neither sustainable or desirable. Health insurance, whether public or private, is a method of financing and paying for health care. Health insurance costs rise in lock step with the actual cost of care. Keeping health care as it is currently certainly can not be acceptable. The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. I will be first in line to repeal when a plausible plan which addresses the excessive rises in cost, the growing numbers of uninsured and covers pre-existing conditions is in place. The discussion for health care reform has been going on for over 100 years. If for nothing else, Obamacare gives us the opportunity to make health care reform happen.
Franklin Wong July 14, 2012 at 01:26 PM
This is an article worthy of note. http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/how-to-replace-obamacare The draws attention to the flaws in pre-Obama care heath system as well as flaws in Obamacare. The article advocates for the repeal of Obamacare but most importantly it pushes for replacing Obamacare and the unsustainable health care system pre-Obamacare. Repeal AND Replace.

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