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My Healthcare — and Yours — Hangs in the Balance

With the Supreme Court ruling on 'Obamacare' expected any day now, our 'Patch In' columnist explains why she hopes the justices will let the law stand.

 

My family may lose our health insurance this coming Saturday.

But by this Thursday, millions of people will find out if they will be able to afford healthcare coverage as spelled out in President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—more familiarly known as “Obamacare.”

Sometime this week, the Supreme Court will hand down its decision on the constitutionality of ACA, likely by this Thursday.  One of the major objections opponents have to the law is whether or not the government can mandate that all citizens have to buy or secure health insurance — the ‘individual mandate.’ They argue it’s unconstitutional, and that government cannot force anyone to buy anything.

Healthcare coverage is not just divisive legally; it’s a hot-button topic academically, politically, economically, and, of course, personally. When my husband was laid off 18 months ago, in addition to immediately questioning how we’d keep paying the mortgage and put food on the table, the biggest question was, “What about medical coverage?”

Thankfully, his former employer offered coverage through COBRA. It was an incredibly expensive option, but it allowed us to maintain coverage at exactly the same level we’d been used to, albeit at a costlier level.

COBRA only lasts 18 months. As of this writing we have four days left.

Now facing the myriad search for health insurance, we’ve filled out an application for a plan. At least with the options we considered at the price we could afford, we were presented with plans that didn’t cover maternity or mental health. Fingers crossed, we’ll get the approval — we have children, and we want coverage for wellness care as well as for the ‘god forbid’ situations. But to do so we had to detail every bump, bruise, diagnostic procedure, doctor visit, medical problem and possible family history issue of the last 10 years. We wondered, would anything raise a flag and possibly prevent us from getting coverage?

There’s family history of colon and stomach cancer; would routine screenings still be covered for that? What about family history of thyroid cancer; would I still be able to have a yearly ultrasound screening to check, even without incidence of the disease myself? Would the one visit we made to the E.R. exactly nine years and 11 months ago lower our chances for being approved?

Everyone has a story, some more sob story than others, when it comes to coverage. I have a friend who has MS, and no matter that she has been gainfully employed since forever and a day, she’s unable to secure healthcare coverage at all. During the debate over the ACA in Congress, stories popped up daily of individuals who would otherwise suffer unless the legislation passed.

There are passionate arguments and rational defenses of both sides. Of course, I’m encouraged when even a conservative writes to defend the constitutionality of the ACA. For me, I think this is a law that should be upheld. There are several important things that will be supported by the passage of this law, and should it be struck down by an activist court, we stand to lose greatly.

  1. More than 30 million Americans who are currently without healthcare coverage, will be able to find coverage because of the ACA.
  2. Small businesses will have more ability to find competitive pricing on plans and they’ll get tax credits for providing insurance for their employees.
  3. No longer will Americans with pre-existing conditions be denied insurance coverage, as of 2014.
  4. Other disenfranchised groups will have more protection and ability to keep or find coverage — including early retirees and lower income families. Also, more than 3.1 million young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health care plans through the age of 26.

These advantages not only benefit the individual but they truly serve our business community — small businesses will be able to attract and keep employees by being able to provide attractive benefit plans; workers can better maintain their health, keeping up their ability to work and increasing productivity. Economically, it will be a fairer marketplace.

Interestingly, the public, for the most part, supports the separate parts of the law, but when asked whether they support Obamacare, 56 percent of them say no, according to a Reuters poll out this past Sunday. Over 60 percent are opposed to the individual mandate. To me, that says the Republicans have done a much better P.R. campaign than the Democrats and the Obama administration have.

Who knows how the Supreme Court justices will rule this week. It’s so up in the air that, according to the New York Times, last week House Speaker John Boehner issued a memo to his fellow Republicans, stating, “We will not celebrate at a time when millions of our fellow Americans remain out of work, the national debt has exceeded the size of our nation’s economy, health costs continue to rise, and small businesses are struggling to hire.” The question is whether all Republicans agree that absolute for or against isn’t what is best for the public — or for their future electability.

Healthcare is such a complex, difficult animal to legislate, it’s remarkable that any legislation got through at all, given how much disagreement there has been during this administration and failures during past ones.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court justices decide to keep moving the country in a forward direction — and perhaps the voters will have their final, Democratic say about it, come November.

Sean M June 26, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Clearly the person who wrote this do not understand the Constitution. The federal government does not have the authority to make people buy anything. The Constitution explicitly describes federal powers, mostly in Article 1, Section 8. Insurance is by design there to cover things not likely to happen. By mandating covering pre-existing conditions, all that does is make insurance for everyone else more expensive and creates a situation of government mandated private welfare. All you want to talk about is what you have a right to have. It comes from someone else. You can decide what to buy for you and I will do the same for me. That is freedom and liberty, not the huge government controlled program you advocate
Todd Fox June 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Sean, I agree that the federal government does not have the authority to force us to purchase insurance, but let me ask you this: What would you do if you contracted a major illness which left you unable to work, and your insurance company dropped you?
Sean M June 26, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Todd, It is the individual's responsibility to buy disability insurance. As for being dropped, if you buy an insurance plan and pay the premiums and get sick, you are in a contract and the insurance company would be in breach of contract. There is a way to deal with pre-existing conditions, at the state level, not sure beyond that. The problem with our current system is: 1. too many federal and state mandates. 2. too many people who want insurance to cover routine stuff like doctor visits and pregnancy, which are not insurable. 3. third party payer keeps costs out of control 4. too easy to sue 5. the federal government stops interstate commerce on insurance, to keep prices high and competition low. None of the real issues are addressed in Obamacare. Obamacare is designed to put private insurance out of business so the feds can have single payer. Obama and his Marxist buddies just want complete control over our lives and our health is the best way to do it.
--- June 28, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Todd, You agree the federal government cannot force you to buy anything, but then proceed to play the emotion card. We are a republic, a Nation of laws. We are not Oprah. Health care is not a Constitutional right.
Don Sherman July 02, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Now that the bill is upheld, we can focus on what matters: the implementation. To the author of this article: I understand and share your concerns, but you must not have examined how the plan works. I have two suggestions for you. One, visit the IRS web to learn how the finance side of the equation works. Two, support your husband's decision to start a business. You will benefit by his being employed, and you will be able to author an informed article.

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