As the eve of the Affordable Care Act’s fate fast approaches, both sides of the partisan divide eagerly wait upon baited breath to pounce on whichever decision is laid down. Republicans have vowed to settle for nothing short of complete elimination since the law’s inception. The Supreme Court may do what GOP has been unable to do on their own. Whatever direction the Court takes, the Reform’s opponents promise to “repeal quickly and replace slowly” but with what is unclear.
Public approval of the health care reform hovers between 33% to 45% according to the most recent polls. But that perception is skewed. “Obamacare” overwhelmingly associated with the individual mandate, the requirement for everyone to purchase health insurance. The two are essentially synonymous in the public conversation. This long held provision touted for two decades by the Republican Party as a viable alternative to any Democratic introduced legislation, is the primary source of irritation for the average person. Amidst all the chaos surrounding the passage of the law many have forgotten the mandate was placed into a Senate compromised bill to garner GOP support after votes for the public option evaporated. How will an unconstitutional ruling on the mandate reflect on Republicans given their 20 year attachment to it?
The mandate aside, virtually all the other provisions enjoy the approval of large majorities. From allowing people to stay on their parents insurance longer to banning insurers from denying coverage to providing preventative care without a co-pay to requiring insurers who spend less than 80% of premium dollars on medical expenditures to send customers rebates for the difference to closing the Medicare Rx drug doughnut hole to the formation of competitive insurance exchanges to the Patient’s Bill of Rights, all are supported by the public.
Given the mass of approval for all but the mandate, the GOP’s intent to “Repeal quickly” may prove questionable. The $230 billion added to the national debt notwithstanding, repealing the bill would once again allow insurers to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions, would reopen the prescription drug doughnut hole, and eliminate funds already utilized to improve health care networks and access to care in rural areas. Seniors would immediately have co-pays reinstituted and the millions who have benefited or acquired coverage since its passage will lose what has been gained. In addition, millions have already been spent to form the insurance marketplaces, to implement new cost saving technologies and in overall preparation for the reform’s full implementation. How does the GOP reconcile this stance to repeal with its recent dedication to reduce the national debt and government waste?
Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s passage health care costs were rising at astounding rates. National health care expenditures for 2010 reached $2.3 trillion accounting for 17.9% of GDP, ten times what it was in the 1980′s. Since 2001 family premiums increased 113%. health care costs amounted to $7,681 per person in 2008. Given the ever rising cost how will the GOP convince the average American that “Replacing slowly” is a viable option? Credibility for this policy is further strained with recent CBO findings that private insurance premiums grew slower than expected in 2012 as is the case for Medicare recipients.
Federal and state governments are already 2 years into the 4 year implementation period. Health care and insurances costs have increased exponentially over the past 20 years. Is it not worth concluding that the American people have already waited long enough for health care reforms? More delays, a complete start over and an even slower implementation process will not benefit anyone whose suffering has abated already because of the very law members of the GOP wish to repeal. Republicans have called for “common sense” reforms but does starting from scratch, eliminating the progress already made, sound like common sense?