About six months ago, in a newspaper interview, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo called the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) “a travesty.” This was before the Republican talking points added the phrase “train wreck” to describe the ACA.
About a week before that interview, the congressman said the ACA was unconstitutional in a newspaper commentary. According to the Republican-controlled Supreme Court of the United States, Rep. LoBiondo was wrong.
Republicans are scared to death that the ACA will be successful. It would create serious political problems for them. In fact, the ACA is basically the same health care program proposed by the right-leaning Heritage Foundation and is strikingly similar to the successful program installed in Massachusetts by its former Gov. Mitt Romney (remember him?).
But anything proposed by President Obama will be opposed by this current crop of Republicans, especially those with Tea Party backing. They not only vote against his programs, they offer misleading facts and use scare tactics.
When Gov. Romney established his health care program in Massachusetts, he enlisted the help of the Boston Red Sox. The players recorded announcements encouraging people to sign up for the new program and helping clarify how it worked.
The Obama administration had similar plans, but Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent letters that were just a half-step short of being called threatening to the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball telling them not to get involved. After receiving the letter, the NFL announced it has no plans to get involved with the health plan, although the Baltimore Ravens have indicated they will. Hopefully, other teams will follow. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jon Bon Jovi, Amy Poehler and Alicia Keys will also help get the word out.
The sign-up period began Tuesday, Oct. 1, and will continue through March.
Here is what one prominent Republican has said about health care reform.
“Write to your congressional representative against the health care reform proposal or we will awake to find that we have socialism.
“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism has been by way of medicine. This will usher in federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.”
First, the doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. You decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors.
“If you don't stop this, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like in American when men were free.”
Actually, that wasn’t about the ACA – it was what Ronald Reagan said about Medicare when it was being proposed in 1961. Would you describe Medicare that way? If you have it, would you give it up? Would your parents?
Of course not, and Reagan saw his mistake. When he was elected president 19 years later and might have been able to go after Medicare, he left it alone. Chances are, that is what will happen with the ACA.
The new health care law has a significant impact on health care costs. It could cost $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years, although most of that cost is offset. The law actually reduces the growth in health care spending by tens of billions each year, reduces health care costs for many Americans, helps to insure tens of millions more and is estimated to result in an overall net decrease of the deficit by more than $200 billion during its first 10 years and over $1 trillion over the next two decades. The ACA is paid for through collected taxes, penalties, spending cuts and reformations to the health care industry.
If you are insured and you’re happy with your coverage, you can probably keep it. The ACA includes free preventative care, prescription drug savings for seniors and no cancellations or lifetime limits for care. Some provisions have already begun and are very popular – young adults can remain on their parents’ plan until age 26, pre-existing conditions are covered and insurance companies are required to issue rebates if they spend too much on administration and profits.
Rep. LoBiondo said during his March interview that “death panels were not an exaggeration” and that the law “takes away the choice of patients and doctors to decide the best course of treatment.”
Wrong and wrong.
They said most of these things about Medicare and decisions continue to be made by doctors and patients. In fact, doctors and hospitals will be compensated based on their ability to properly deal with your health problems. Payments can be withheld if patients return to the hospital within 30 days for the same problem. Therefore there will be more focus on what happens when you go home. They might send a nurse to make sure you take medications and follow-up with your family doctor.
A lot has been discussed about businesses of 50 or more employees being required to supply insurance and being penalized if they don’t. Well, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 95.7 of those businesses already offer health care (96.5 percent in New Jersey) so that problem is probably being overstated. But you don’t hear much about the tax credits for businesses of 25 or fewer employees that are included in the ACA. Only 35.7 percent of those businesses offer health care (46.7 percent in New Jersey), a figure that is sure to increase significantly.
Many new businesses have been created because of the ACA – one startup has created a smart bracelet that will greatly reduce hospital infections, which cost $30 billion a year. Another creates monitoring systems to make sure patients take their medications. They are two of many responding to the requirements of the new law.
Rep. LoBiondo voted 42 times with his party to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Those ridiculous votes and the debate time associated with them used up about 100 hours of time in the House of Representatives. And the Congressional Research Service said that it costs about $54 million to run the House for 100 hours. Talk about wasting money.
The form to apply for insurance under the ACA is three pages at Healthcare.org. That is about 17 pages less than a traditional form supplied by an insurance company. Visit the website. You can chat live with someone who can answer your questions. Or call (800) 318-2596 if you prefer an old-fashioned conversation.
Even if you are insured, check out the website and find out about the new law. You might even find better coverage than you have now.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. Very few laws are. There will be changes and adjustments, maybe eventually to a single payer. But it is a positive step and you need to find out the truth about it.
One thing is sure – if the Affordable Care Act is as successful as it should be, the Republicans will stop calling it Obamacare.
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Words of Wisdom: “When I thought of all the years, all the battles and all the memories of my long, public life, I feel confident in the closing days that while I would not be there when it happens, (Barack Obama) will be the president who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society.”
–Sen. Edward Kennedy
MORE COLUMNS BY TOM WILLIAMS
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