2012 issues: Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 has been reviled as “Obamacare” by Republicans, including the Romney-Ryan ticket, who pledge to repeal it if they are elected.

Now President Obama embraces the name and proudly claims the law as part of his legacy:

“Four years ago, I said in this great country of ours, nobody should go bankrupt when they get sick, and so we passed health reform — yes, I like the name “Obamacare” — — so your insurance companies can’t jerk you around anymore. So young people can stay on their parent’s plans till they’re 26. So women can’t be charged more than men for their insurance — being a woman is not a preexisting condition.”

I’m with the president, and not just because the law is already helping our family by letting us keep our kids on our health insurance policies up to age 26. Here’s more of what it already has accomplished, from an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation:

• says health insurance plans may not place lifetime limits on dollar value of coverage;

• prohibits insurance plans from denying children coverage because of pre-existing conditions;

• requires new health plans to provide a list of preventive services without additional cost, including immunizations, preventive care for infants, children, and adolescents, and additional preventive care and screenings for women.

• creates a temporary program for health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months.

• started to close the Medicare drug payment gap and the “doughnut hole” for Medicare drug coverage.

• instituted new measures to catch fraud and abuse.

This is only a small part of what Obamacare already has done.

There are a lot of scare stories about what Obamacare will do. Again, a look at the facts is in order. For a detailed listing of provisions, effective dates and so on, go to the Kaiser Family Foundation web page or to their PDF summary of the law’s provisions. In brief, the most important provisions of the law include:

• Everybody has to have health insurance coverage. Coverage will be available for everybody through state health insurance exchanges. There are some exemptions, including financial hardship. If insurance premiums are more than 8 percent of your income, that’s financial hardship.

• People earning 133-400 percent of the poverty line will get government assistance to pay premiums.

• People earning less than 133 percent of the poverty line will be eligible for Medicaid.

• Employers with more than 50 employees will have to offer health insurance plans or pay penalties. Employers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to offer health insurance plans and do not pay penalties. Small businesses that do provide health insurance can get some tax credits.

Many of us who are working full-time and paying for our own insurance are paying more now than we would under the health insurance exchanges. A cap on premiums of 9.5 percent of income looks really good to me. A guarantee that my family can get insurance — regardless of pre-existing conditions — looks, literally, life-saving.

Would I rather see universal, single-payer national health coverage, instead of this complicated system of health insurance exchanges with private insurance companies? You bet I would. But, imperfect as the Obamacare plan is, it’s still much, much better than the system that existed before. As Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post this week:

“If Obama is reelected, Americans who lose their jobs needn’t fear that their families will lose their health insurance. Discrimination based on preexisting conditions will be a thing of the past, and every state will have a health insurance exchange where insurers compete for business and where regulators can expel shoddy health plans.”


[I’m taking time off this weekend for a writing retreat. I’m going to spend time writing about several election issues. In some ways, this feels like a futile exercise — who’s listening to me, anyway? And hasn’t it all been said already? Even so, I’m going to do it, writing what I think and linking to sources I trust, where you can get a lot more information. This post is one of my 2012 issues series.] 

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One response to “2012 issues: Obamacare

  1. Pingback: 2012 issues: War and peace | News Day

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