Many lawmakers remain critical of bill
Posted: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:22 am
By: Staff Reports
From staff reports
The one-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Wednesday failed to go unnoticed by those for the bill and those against it.
The legislation established health insurance as a right and a responsibility.
Tennessee’s Republican leadership called it “the first anniversary of the liberals’ government takeover of America’s health care system.”
“Exactly one year ago today, President Obama signed his massive and reckless government takeover of health care into law — despite broad opposition from the American people,” U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher said on Wednesday. “And, make no mistake, this bill has and will take a grueling toll on our economy and workers and families in Tennessee. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this government takeover of health care will result in more than 800,000 jobs lost over the next 10 years and increase premiums on family policies an average of $2,100 a year. And a new CBO analysis shows the price tag on this health care law will be 8.6 percent more expensive than the Democrats claimed last year — moving the price tag to a whopping $1.13 trillion.
“At a time when our country faces high unemployment and unsustainable debt, we simply cannot afford to pay for this failed government run health care program. In one year, health care services in our country have gotten worse, not better,” Fincher said.
He was joined by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who voted against the health care bill and for legislation to repeal it. He says the law fails to address costs and imposes huge burdens on federal and state budgets.
“There is not a thinking person in Washington who believes this health care law will work as designed because it doesn’t solve the biggest problem in our health care system, which is cost. In fact, the law increases federal health care spending, despite record deficits and debt, and imposes a huge unfunded mandate on state governments to expand their Medicaid programs. Large employers will be discouraged from providing coverage because they could abandon their health plans, pay the penalties and still save millions of dollars by passing the burden on to taxpayers. And for anyone concerned about the future of Medicare, the law spends $530 billion in Medicare savings instead of using those funds to extend the life of the program.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Wednesday, “At last year’s health care summit, I said to the president that his health care bill would raise individual premiums, but he insisted, ‘that’s just not the case.’ Today, individual premiums are increasing, taxes are going up, and Medicare is getting cut. I will continue working to repeal this law and replace it with reforms that lower costs step-by-step so more people can afford insurance, rather than expanding a system that already costs too much.”
Fincher, who campaigned on the promise to do everything he can to repeal the “job-killing health care bill” said, “I am committed to creating jobs in Tennessee and this health care bill only stands in the way of that goal. This January, I co-sponsored legislation in the House of Representatives to repeal this bill, but our work is still only beginning. I will continue to fight in Congress to increase access, affordability and quality of care, without adding to the national debt.”
Despite the feelings of Republican leaders and their fight to repeal what they call “Obamacare,” several health care groups praised the act on Wednesday and called for the American people to fight to keep it in place.
Emily Spitzer, executive director of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), said this historic piece of legislation included the biggest expansion of Medicaid since its inception in 1965.
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is already improving the lives of millions of Americans. For too long, hard-working Americans have gone without quality coverage or without coverage at all. The new law gives Americans the same health coverage that Congress gives itself while controlling health care costs in an unprecedented way.”
The law will expand Medicaid eligibility and coverage to more than 16 million people — including adults without dependent children — with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Already Connecticut, Minnesota and the District of Columbia have begun early expansion of Medicaid and expect to cover 180,000 people who were previously using state-only funds or were uninsured.
“While today is a day of celebration, it is unfortunate that some states continue to express concern about the expansion of Medicaid benefits to their marginalized populations,” Ms. Spitzer said Wednesday. “Medicaid is the bedrock of the American health system and provides critical health insurance for millions of children, pregnant women, older adults, individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable low-income populations.
“We strongly oppose efforts under way in some states to reverse the impact of the new law by cutting people or services from Medicaid. The program is too vital to our communities to summarily slash. States have tremendous flexibility in implementing the program, and they need to work toward smart and innovative ways to ensure that their citizens receive the coverage they need.”
The new health care law, which will be implemented over several years, introduced many reforms beyond Medicaid. Other key provisions include funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, data collection so disparities in care can be identified and eliminated, elimination of the “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program (Part D), expanded access to family planning services, greater preventive care benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, the reauthorization of the Office of Minority Health, and safeguards against abusive insurance practices by holding insurers accountable and allowing for private coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, or dependents up to age 26.
The National Minority Aids Council officials celebrated the anniversary Wednesday, but said “the celebration may be short lived as the vital protections and reforms in the new law are under attack by members of Congress who want to repeal or defund the entire bill or strip away key provisions.”
Items they say are at stake include:
• Earlier and expanded access to Medicaid coverage, affordable access to private insurance;
• The end to private insurer discriminatory practices;
• Investments in innovative approaches to public health and prevention;
• Increased resources for HIV testing;
• Increased access to comprehensive medical home care;
• Reduced drug costs under Medicare Part D;
• A robust medical workforce.
“Full enactment of the Affordable Care Act is critical to meet and exceed the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy of reducing HIV incidence, improving access to care and reducing HIV-related disparities,” council officials said.
“Don’t let Congress set us back. More than 500,000 people with HIV without reliable access to HIV care are depending on it as part of the 32 million who stand to gain health coverage under ACA.”
Closer to home, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign hosted a birthday party for the law in the halls of Legislative Plaza to celebrate the protections and benefits that have taken effect since the bill was signed by President Obama one year ago. Vanderbilt physicians Dr. Jim Powers and Dr. Sandra Moutsios were on hand to speak about the Patient’s Bill of Rights included in PPACA.
Among these protections provided by the new law are:
• Banning pre-existing condition exclusions by insurance companies (for children now and for adults in 2014);
• Ensuring the freedom of all patients to choose their doctor;
• Ending lifetime limits on health care coverage;
• Preventing insurance companies from dropping policyholders when they get sick;
• Cracking down on excessive premium rate increases by insurers.
Though all Tennesseans will benefit from the protections, financial help and expanded coverage options that come in 2014, many are already seeing real tangible benefits of the law, according to officials with Tennessee Health Care Campaign
In Tennessee alone:
• 115,000 children with pre-existing conditions are now protected;
• 66,500 small businesses are eligible for tax credits to help them provide insurance;
• 70,800 uninsured young adults are now eligible to stay on their parents’ plan;
• 1,043,000 Medicare beneficiaries have access to free preventive health services;
• 74,800 Medicare beneficiaries received a prescription drug rebate check in 2010.
Published in The Messenger 3.24.11