Obamacare today, gone tomorrow? It’s here, deal with it
The Affordable Care Act is a good act but, will it play in Peoria? Now more than even it seems that it will continue to run in a theater near you. Especially given that the Supreme Court ruled on June 25th that the federal subsidies that help people pay for their insurance premiums are available all across the United States and not just in the sixteen states that have their own insurance exchanges. The opposite decision would have put Obamacare on the brink of cancellation, but the 6-3 vote preserved coverage for over 6 million Americans – ratings that will certainly keep the law on the air instead of in reruns.
Now that the healthcare reform is firmly entrenched in prime time, the government will seize the opportunity to clarify the plot a little bit. “We as an administration haven’t done as much as we could to make sure people understand the breadth of the benefits,” U.S. health secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt in an interview for PBS’s Charlie Rose. And it was high time, too. To begin with, many people thought that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were two different things. But they are the same thing, just like a Royale with Cheese is the same as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
The administration is hoping to add more people next year to the 10 million who currently are in private health plans sold under the Affordable Care Act. To do this, Burwell said, the government must make sure that “people understand the benefits they get every day that they’re using that are part of the Affordable Care Act.” For instance, the law mandates that parents’ insurance plans cover their children until they are 26, as well as prohibits out-of-pocket charges for many preventive healthcare services such as mammograms. President Barack Hussein Obama himself is urging the 22 Republican-helmed states that have refused to expand Medicaid – like Tennessee, thither he went on July 1st – to embrace this program which covers low-income individuals. “I’d like to see some good sense spring forth from the good state of Tennessee, see if we can get this thing done,” he said on that occasion.
Republicans haven’t given up just yet, though. Many of them, such as erstwhile Florida governor Jeb Bush, said they would continue trying to repeal the law. Bush, who is running for the Republican nomination – which is unsettling enough in and of itself –, said he would replace the Affordable Care Act with “conservative reforms that empower consumers with more choices and control over their health-care decisions.” Nevertheless, Obama is not likely to heed proposals from the GOP to replace or change the law – even when they are backed by Democrats too, such as repeal of a tax on medical devices – according to Burwell. Another example is a Republican-proposed raise of the threshold at which employers must offer insurance to part-time workers to 40 hours a week – from the 30 hours that the ACA requires. However, since more people work almost 40 weekly hours than 30, Burwell said it “would create more of an issue.”
What the administration will do is revise legislation looking to change the law based on its effect on care affordability and quality, whether it expands access to care, and its impact on the economy. “One of the things that I think is an important part of the conversation about the changes and improvements that we need to make is getting to the substance of ‘What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve, and will the action you’re taking actually solve that problem?’” Burwell said. She went on to say, though, that “we believe what we have in front of us is working.”