The topic: Does the Affordable Care Act still need doctoring?
The debut of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), using the Health care.com website for enrollment, was problematic due to technical difficulties. It should not lead one to erroneously conclude the program itself is broken. According to the president of Kaiser Family Foundation, the complexity of the systems for implementing Obamacare was greater than the most complicated insurance company systems. Most technical problems have been solved. Enrollment in the first week of December surpassed the total for November.
A universal health care concept has received support from Democrats and Republicans in the past. Democratic President Harry Truman favored it. Twice, Republican President Richard Nixon attempted to have universal health care legislation passed. Congressional Democrats favored a different plan and stymied his efforts. President Bill Clinton and Republican legislators agreed on the need for a national health care system but disagreed on the specifics.
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Republican Jim DeMint, viewed as the most conservative senator, sent a letter to President George W. Bush in 2007. He offered to collaborate with Bush to pass legislation that would “ensure that all Americans would have affordable, quality, private health coverage, while protecting current programs.” The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of nine senators. Today, he is a vociferous critic of Obamacare.
Republican Gov. Mitt Romney implemented an individual-mandate universal health care plan in Massachusetts. Obamacare is almost a mirror image of the Massachusetts system. In 2009, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley stated, “There is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate.” Now, Romney and Grassley pontificate for repeal of Obamacare.
Congressional Republicans made defunding of Obamacare a condition for funding the federal government; the escapade caused a shutdown of the government for 16 days. This reckless tactic cost the U.S. economy $24 billion.
The prevailing toxic posturing is the outcome of a strategy adopted by a group of Republican congressmen, senators and two other influential Republicans on the night of Obama’s inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 2009. During the “invitation only” covert meeting, the attendees ignominiously plotted to sabotage the U.S. economy; they pledged to obstruct and block Obama on all legislation regardless of the causative damage to economy. Objective: To make Obama a one-term president.
Obama was re-elected, but Republican legislators continue intransigence. The Senate minority leader has stated that Republicans’ primary goal is to stop the president’s agenda. Eightytwo of Obama’s nominees have been filibustered by minority Republican senators; the combined total for all previous presidents is 86. The current Congress has enacted only 52 laws, making it the least productive since World War II.
How can those entrusted by voters to work for the good of the country unconscionably ignore their solemn duty for political gain? It is incomprehensible.
The Affordable Care Act provided funding to the states for building insurance websites; funding for the federal website was blocked by Republicans. Succumbing to Republican pressure, 34 states declined to build their own websites, becoming reliant on the federal website. Ergo, the complexity of developing the federal website was compounded many times over.
Many ultraconservative fearmongers are using scare tactics to mislead the public. They borrow inane and ignominious opinions from sources such as Fox “News,” ultraconservative interest groups and farright bloggers. And they present those opinions as “facts” to the public.
The New York Times noted, “It can be difficult to remember now, given the ferocity with which many Republicans assail it as an attack on freedom, but the provision in President Obama’s health care law requiring all Americans to buy health insurance has its roots in conservative thinking.”
Obamacare is a regulated private insurance program and makes insurance available to 32 million who currently cannot get insurance. Insurance companies cannot cancel coverage due to serious new health problems or deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Parents can include children up to age 26 in their health insurance.
Obamacare offers a choice of plans; an individual may select the plan that best meets needs. Those with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible to receive subsidies to help pay premiums.
Obamacare requires businesses with 50 or more employees to offer them health insurance; those businesses receive tax credits. A report by Business Roundtable (an association of CEOs) projects Obamacare could reduce insurance cost per employee by more than $3,000.
Finally, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects a federal deficit reduction by $143 billion during 2012-2021 and $1.2 trillion during 2022-2031 from Obamacare.
Zaf Iqbal is past associate dean and professor emeritus of accounting at Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business. He volunteers with local nonprofits, including Wilshire Hospice and Caring Callers. He is past president of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Club.