“Obamacare” is the derisive term critics use for the new health reform law. But President Barack Obama pushed it through a reluctant Congress, so Obamacare is a perfectly good alternative to the cumbersome official title, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
While accepting this short-cut name, it’s time also to consider the good things about the new law. We have been hearing much about its bad side. Critics have been accusing it of busting the budget, ruining small business, destroying Medicare and violating the constitution.
As for its cost, the new law will actually reduce the federal deficits. When President Obama signed it into law, the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projected that it would produce a net reduction in health care spending of $143 billion over the 2010-2019 period. Updating the estimates in February, the agencies put savings under the heath law at $124 billion.
They also projected multi-year deficit increases of $210 billion if Congress should pass the politically-titled “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”
Four million small businesses already can claim tax credits of up to 35 percent of their health insurance costs. By 2014, states may create health-insurance marketplaces where small businesses can pool their buying power and drive down costs.
As for Medicare, which would be virtually abolished under the Republican budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, current benefits are guaranteed, free annual checkups and many free tests and vaccines are added, and the Part D doughnut hole will be closed by 2020. Lifetime and annual coverage limits are out, as are rejections of coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. Several new methods of stemming the surge in health care costs include rating providers to show which are the safest and most effective.
Another immediate benefit provides that insurers must cover children up to their 26th birthday under their parents’ policies instead of ending coverage at the age of 19.
The biggest advantage of Obamacare is that it will bring most Americans under health insurance. About 19 percent are now uninsured. By 2016, only 8 percent are to remain uninsured.
The main contention is over a mandate that by 2014 people must have adequate insurance coverage or pay a fine. Precedents include mandatory automobile insurance and, of course, income taxes. Without this requirement, healthy people could opt out and the insurance plan would fail.
By 2012, most Americans can decide whether they like Obamacare — and its biggest champion. In the meantime, it’s the law and it is having some positive effects.