Felicia Muftic: Give Obamacare a fighting chance
July 6, 2010
Obamacare will be a political football in the midterms. Over the next six months, a serious game will be played for control of both the House and Senate.
In May, Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a draconian bill that would remove all of the provisions of the just-passed health care legislation, retaining only requirements that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.
Voters ought to kick the ball back to Republican candidates and ask where they stand on that bill and pin them down on what specific parts of Obamacare they plan to kill. It might be an eye opener.
Why use the word “Obamacare?” Republicans think it is a term of derision. Not for me. It is a way to give credit to President Obama for leading the first successful attempt to solve a century old problem of health care access.
Republican proposals floated earlier would have extended affordable coverage to only 3 million of the 30 million currently uninsured and save half as much money as Obamacare.
If you hear candidates propose to replace the law by allowing cross-state-line insurance sales or permitting a state-based program, remind them that forms of these are already incorporated in Obamacare. All but 15 states have enacted malpractice reform, so that one is not much of a cost savings enhancement.
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Ask them how to fund or prevent the additional cost of covering pre-existing conditions from being passed on to the rest of us in higher premiums. Obamacare addresses these funding issues already.
Selling Obamacare to voters has admittedly not been a breeze. The legislation is so complex, it is difficult to sum it up in a way that is comprehensible to anyone except policy wonks. It is much easier for voters to embrace the words of vague and broad brush slogans as the truth, and Republicans have capitalized on this reality.
The law’s benefits are scattershot among seniors, college kids, young kids, those with preexisting conditions, working poor, and small business people, fragmenting political support.
Insurance accessibility to the 30 million currently uninsured does not take effect for another three or four years, so real benefits will not be felt until then.
There are significant provisions that kick in now, however, such as creating state insurance pools with subsidized premiums for certain people with high risk conditions; banning coverage exclusions of pre-existing health conditions for children; providing coverage without co-pays for some preventive health services; eliminating lifetime limits on benefits; allowing children to be covered by the parents’ insurance policy up to the age of 26; guaranteed renewability of coverage; and, direct access to obstetricians and gynecologists without having to be referred by a gatekeeper.
The Republican bill would roll back most of these benefits .
Given the complexities of the issue, it has been easy to scare many with myths, distortions and flat out lies. Some probably do not know yet that any reference to end-of-life counseling was cut from the health care reform legislation.
Even with worst-case nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projections, Obamacare would break even or save $120 billion from the deficit over 10 years and employer-provided premiums would not increase significantly, if at all.
Some still decry Obamacare as scary socialism. Come now, it is not any more socialist than government programs of Medicare and Medicaid. It could be argued it is even less so, since Obamacare does not contain the public option. It relies on private insurance providers for administration; and it continues the employer provided insurance system.