Obamacare at risk?

It has not been a good week for the Affordable Care Act and supporters of this legislation, also known as Obamacare.

We still believe the Republican efforts in Congress to defund or repeal the 2010 health care law are more political than practical, and, while significant portions of the law need to be reworked, the overall framework will remain in place. However, continued stumbling by the Obama administration and news articles revealing the extent of the law’s problems are giving more ammo to GOP opponents of the law.

Here are some examples:

✔ An article Monday in The New York Times told how the Obama administration has approved yet another delay for a significant part of Obamacare. The provision in question is designed to set limits on the total amount of out-of-pocket expense consumers pay for health care each year and thus help hold down costs to individuals. But the administration postponed the provision until 2015 because insurance companies said they need more time to comply.

Critics of Obamacare cited this as more evidence that the administration is uprepared to fully implement the complex law. Even a supporter of Obamacare who defended the delay — Johnathan Cohn of The New Republic — called the change “frustrating.”

✔ On Wednesday, NBC News reported that employers around the country, “from fast-food restaurants to colleges,” plan on cutting employee hours to avoid having to comply with Obamacare provisions that require most employers to either provide health care to their workers or pay a fine for not doing so.

The Obama administration immediately denied this was occurring on any broad scale. However, a group of labor unions that have supported the president and Obamacare sent a letter to Democratic leaders in Congress warning that the health care law as presently written could “destroy the 40-hour week that is the backbone of the middle class.”

✔ Also on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported that many public schools around the country are looking to use more substitute teachers and cut hours for support staff to avoid additional costs from Obamacare.

✔ All this comes on the heels of a column in The Wall Street Journal recently by Andrew Puzder, CEO of a company that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants around the country and employs 21,000 people. He expressed concern that young, healthy people will opt out of Obamacare, thereby driving costs for everyone else higher.

The controversial individual mandate, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, was supposed to fix this issue by requiring everyone, healthy or not, to obtain insurance or pay a fine.

But Puzder argued the fines are so low that it’s cheaper for those who are healthy to pay them rather than purchase insurance. They will then do what too many people already do: Visit emergency rooms, the most expensive forums for addressing health issues.

Obamacare is far from being down and out. But the Obama administration should be working with amenable Congress members to find ways to mend it, even if some House conservatives will continue to hyperventilate about the need to repeal it.


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The supposed current recovery is a myth. The only people “recovering” are the well-to-do with money to burn.

The average American is still faced with rampant inflation and low wages, and most new jobs are temporary or part time “McJobs”

We need to be growing our economy, but as long as Obamacare looms on the horizon, corporations and small business job creators will continue to hold back from investing in The U.S.

Dr. Michael Pramenko’s guest column – “Affordable Care Act is grounded in principles once endorsed by GOP” (August 11, 2013) – and today’s timely editorial – “Obamacare at risk?” – accurately bracket the real threat to affordable health care for millions of Americans:  unprincipled partisanship.

If “the law’s problems” are only “growing pains” typical of any grand new government program, then Congress is remiss for not already “tweaking” the Affordable Care Act to quickly ameliorate them.  If those problems are more serious, then Congress is derelict for not intervening to avert the predicted “train wreck”.

As Dr. Pramenko explained, in addition to the financial collapse and two wars President Obama inherited from his Republican predecessor, he also faced accelerating health care costs impelled by profit-driven providers and health insurer’s who gouged their insured’s while investing millions in “death panels” devoted to denying claims.

Because rising premiums and health care costs threatened to bankrupt the “middle class” and Medicare/caid, “doing nothing” was never a choice.  Liberals wanted “Medicare for All” – a “public option” that would have freed employers from health insurance costs, raised taxes, and essentially eliminated private health insurance companies.

Republicans long-advocated a more market-driven approach—which co-opted existing for-profit insurers by imposing individual/employer “mandates”, was successfully implemented in Massachusetts (“RomneyCare”), and was the model for “ObamaCare”. 

Now, hypocritical House Republicans are reluctant to hold oversight hearings on the implementation of “Obamacare” – lest doing so publicly promulgate its benefits and confirm that recent “problems” are ultimately insignificant.  These saboteurs – including Scott Tipton—would rather demagogue “ObamaCare” for partisan political advantage than fix it. 

Instead, irresponsibly opportunistic Republicans are cynically inciting inter-generational divisiveness between younger/healthier Americans—whose premiums are essential to the “risk pool”, and older/sicker Americans (and especially, women)—who are already benefiting from access to more affordable health care.

Critics of Club 20 should know that its Educational Foundation performed an invaluable public service yesterday by hosting a “Regional Health Care Forum” – attended by such “notables” as Tillie Bishop, Kathy Hall, and Mesa County Commissioner John Justman.

While Congressman Tipton has repeatedly voted to de-fund and/or repeal it, and while Republican congressional leaders dissuaded the N.F.L. from partnering in “p.s.a.’s” to educate Americans on their new health insurance options, many local community leaders recognize that the Affordable Care Act is already – and will remain—“the law of the land”, and that both individuals and businesses need to be better-informed about it. 

Hospice Director Dr. David West traced the evolution of the Grand Valley’s progressive and cooperative health care delivery mechanisms – highlighting both its unique and nationally-recognized strengths and remaining weaknesses (including costs).

Against that background, Linda Gann, Western Slope Outreach Coordinator for “Connect for Health Colorado”, outlined the plans that will be available beginning in October on its insurance exchange website.  While the “devil is in the details”, and final premium rates are not yet published, “Connect-Colorado” seems well-ahead of the Nation.

The combination of competitive insurance exchanges and individual/employer mandates – the market-based approach proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1992, successfully implemented as “RomneyCare” in Massachusetts in 2006, and embraced by Governor Owens’ “Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare Reform” in 2008 (in which Club 20 actively participated and endorsed) – is also the crux of “ObamaCare”.

Despite continuing political “noise”, the beneficial local impacts of the Affordable Care Act will likely be substantial – enabling both the Marillac Clinic and Family Health West to expand their services, and perhaps their facilities.  Hopefully, the increased availability of both basic primary care and mental health services to the previously uninsured and/or impoverished will also work to lower Mesa County’s unfortunately high suicide rate.

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