OPINION – Same antics; different day. It seems the mantra for many has become “the Affordable Care Act must die at all costs.”
From October 1 until October 16, House Republicans shut down our federal government – costing our economy billions of dollars, needlessly shaking consumer confidence and hurting American families – all due to intransigence over the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This past Friday marked the 46th vote to weaken the ACA. We get the message.
Since the ACA’s inception, President Obama has assured consumers that if they like their health insurance plans, they can keep them. This statement remains true for an overwhelming majority of the population.
However, his assurance does not apply to all. This fall, some of the less than five percent of those who currently receive their coverage through the individual market began receiving “cancellation” notices from their insurance companies.
These plans often did not meet the quality standards put in place under the Affordable Care Act. Many of these notices neglected to inform consumers that they may find less expensive and more comprehensive coverage through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace.
In addition, these notices often led consumers to believe that, due to the ACA, they would be forced to purchase more expensive plans.
This widespread misinformation and deep concern among individual market consumers, coupled with the challenges many face when shopping online for new, high-quality coverage, prompted President Obama to recently announce that he is unrolling an administrative fix to the Affordable Care Act that will allow insurers to offer customers the chance to renew their existing health coverage through 2014, without changing their plans.
At the same time we are still learning about the President’s plan and how it will impact our various constituencies, House Republicans remain steadfast in their quest to jeopardize the health of millions of Americans.
Two days ago, the House GOP brought the so-called “Keep Your Health Plan” Act to the floor for a vote. Masquerading as a bill to allow people to remain on their current health insurance plans (an administrative fix President Obama had already offered), it was nothing more than another attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
Despite its name, their Act did not actually require insurance companies to maintain their policies for those who would like to remain covered under the same plans.Perhaps most noteworthy, this bill would allow insurance companies to offer policies to new consumers that do not meet the quality standards under the ACA.
Among other concerns, this legislation would give insurance companies the ability to discriminate against consumers based on their pre-existing conditions and gender.
The bill actively seeks to weaken the Affordable Care Act—the latest play in the never-ending Republican game to repeal the law. Instead of working to undermine the ACA, the party of “no” should join Democrats and the Obama administration to help insure millions of Americans.
From refusing to expand Medicaid to creating barriers to those who wish to become application counselors, GOP governors have made it exceedingly difficult for the ACA to be properly implemented.
Governor Walker of Wisconsin has made history in this regard by not only refusing to expand Medicaid but by kicking more people from the program than any other state in the country. If they accepted federal funds to assist low-income Americans through Medicaid, governors could help approximately 5.4 million more people receive health insurance coverage by 2016.
Despite Republican resistance and the challenging rollout, the overwhelming need for quality and affordable health insurance cannot be ignored.
In the first month, an estimated 27 million people visited HealthCare.gov and state exchange websites. The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but its benefits are undeniable. Americans can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
More than 7 million seniors have saved over $8 billion on their prescriptions. Over 6 million young adults are receiving health insurance on their parents’ plans until age 26. Insurers can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. Approximately 105 million Americans now have access to preventive services with no cost. The list of benefits continues, as does the list of how the ACA is positively impacting the lives of millions each day.
In Congress, we are divided on many issues, but whether Americans across this nation deserve quality and affordable health care should never be one of them. Despite the wishes of some, the Affordable Care Act will survive its constant threats, and in doing so American lives will be saved as well.