Obamacare = Modest Reform with Republican Roots
by Carl Mrozek
While roughly half of America is happy or at least relieved at the passage of the Health Care Reform Act, millions of Americans are on the fence and unclear about how and when this landmark legislation will impact their lives. Sadly, a small, but vociferous minority is dead against it, even though core provisions like employer-based private insurance and universal access date back to Richard Nixon’s plan for healthcare reform.
While many of those who vehemently oppose “Obamacare” acknowledge that our healthcare is broken and in urgent need of repair, for the most part they are among the well-covered in our current zero-sum health insurance system of haves and have-nots. Hence they don’t feel “the fierce urgency of now” that more than 50 million in America do today.
Instead, proponents of “repeal and replace” urge a slow, piecemeal reform of our broken healthcare system, starting with tort reform, and more tort reform—as if what we needed was more lawyers, not more doctors and clinics. As chief waterboys for the health insurance monopolies, they do have a point in view of the industry’s widespread practice of recision, whereby tens of thousands of Americans have their policies cancelled as soon as they file an expensive claim. Current and former insurance executives have admitted receiving large bonuses for denying Americans coverage for cancer treatment, organ transfers, and other life-saving procedures, often resulting in their deaths. After all a million saved is a million earned—as long as you don’t have to defend this insidious practice in court. With insurance company profits tied to denying, not providing, healthcare coverage, it’s easy see why legislative lackeys for the health insurance industry would be focused first and foremost on tort reform and not expanding access to healthcare to millions more Americans.
Even though they won’t be immune from lawsuits, the stock of major health insurance companies skyrocketed after passage of the Health Care Reform Act, in anticipation of 31 million more clients entering the system, each worth at least several thousand in premiums per year. Apparently Wall Street isn’t afraid of a government takeover of the healthcare system.
Seniors shouldn’t fear the Health Care Reform Act either. For starters it will get rid of the odious “donut hole” in Medicare Part D—the only Republican-sponsored contribution to our modern healthcare system, despite controlling both houses of Congress for more than a decade under Clinton and Bush, and the presidency for eight years prior to Obama. This alone will spare seniors several thousand in out-of-pocket expenses they now incur when they slip into the “donut hole” gap in prescription coverage.
The list of other benefits is long and a bit complicated but includes making it illegal to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, starting with children in the next few months and extending to everyone within a few years. In the meantime, those denied coverage may get it via federally subsidized “high risk pools” run by nonprofits, not the government. Recision will also become illegal within six months, as will lifetime caps on coverage. That and the requirement that private plans offer preventative care for all payees without co-pay or deductibles may actually force insurance company executives to start competing for bonuses based on illness prevention instead of non-treatment of sick customers.
It is hard to fathom how any rational person can argue that a bill which does so much good for so many somehow undermines our democracy and free enterprise system. On the contrary, it provides basic protections for average Americans, the middle class, and makes affordable healthcare a right, not a rapidly vanishing privilege. It is hard to see how any but the economic elite in Rust Belt Buffalo could argue against the newly passed Health Care Reform Act let alone demonize it as undermining something sacred in America. It is impossible to condone the call to arms, to bricks and ethnic slurs, to “lock, load, and target” elected representatives who helped make this historic, compassionate, long-awaited and necessary, albeit modest reform possible.
Carl Mrozek, Lancaster
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