2012-07-27 / Columnists

East End Matters

Thank You Chief Justice Roberts; Now Let’s Move Forward
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

If at the first 32 times you don’t succeed, try a 33rd time.

That’s what Republicans did when they voted for the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act after the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts surprised all and did not strike the bill down as unconstitutional. Of course, the vote in the House of Representatives was a symbolic one by a party that believed they would be doing victory laps when the Supreme Court case was decided in June.

For those depending on the survival of the Affordable Health Care Act it felt like going to a hanging the morning the Supreme Court’s decision was announced. All indications were pointing to a defeat for the people who need the bill’s provisions to keep them and their families healthy. So it was with great surprise that it was announced that the Court upheld the law. But the House and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have both vowed to repeal the law. Thus the recent vote that took place in the House of Representatives. Of course, with a Democratic Senate, repeal will not happen.

A recent bi-partisan NPR poll found a slight majority of respondents in favor of amending the bill, not repealing it. A July 18 article written by Ron Elying for NPR laid out some of the findings. “The poll found that a plurality still disapproved of the law itself (48 percent to 43 percent), but a similar-sized plurality (47 percent to 46 percent) approved of the Supreme Court’s June 28 decision upholding its constitutionality. Most voters (58 percent) said that decision did not alter their own opinion of the law, but 21 percent said the decision made them more likely to approve of the law and 16 percent said it made them less likely to do so.”

A CNN poll earlier this month showed the number of people “who favor all or most of the provisions in the bill has gone up a bit since last year.”

While it is true that many people say they are against the bill as a whole, when listing the provisions in the health care act, opinions change. That is why the president took the time in his speech after the Court’s decision to once again explain the finer details of the law, many of which already have gone into effect.

“Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive,” said President Obama. “They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick. They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason. They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms – a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance. And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care.”

In addition the law has begun to provide relief for those with Medicare Part D and it will eventually close the ‘donut hole’ all together, expanded coverage for early retirees, allows for free wellness care for babies and children until the age of 21, allows parents to keep their sons and daughters on their insurance until the age of 26, and a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) – run by either the state or the US Department of Health and Human Services – provides new coverage options to individuals who have been uninsured for at least six months because of a pre-existing condition. There are also tax credits for small businesses that want to offer health care to their employees. In 2014 any and all policies denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions will be illegal.

These are all gains that would have been lost had the Court’s decision gone the other way.

In the meantime, Romney keeps saying repeal as he runs away from almost the exact law he signed when he was governor of Massachusetts. Obama accomplished what other presidents have tried to do for decades. Repeal would turn back the clock and take back the benefits now available. It would also, according to a recent estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, add an estimated $109 billion to the federal deficit. Also of concern, Huffingtonpost.com points out how decisions by states could shape health care reform when it reported this week that the CBO found that if states do not take part in the expanded Medicaid provision, which the Court allowed, then it would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2022.

Roberts termed the payment by those refusing to get health care a tax. So what would we call Social Security and Medicare? For the record it is FICA – Federal Insurance Contributions Act. It’s how the government collects tax money to pay for both programs, which are considered holy grails in the government’s budget.

Many of the ideas in the law are Republican ones. Yet, they are playing politics with the health of the people of this country,

President Obama said, “The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do – what the country can’t afford to do – is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were. … But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.”

Here, here Mr. President.

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