A decisive month for healthcare act

Posted Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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One month from the start of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), with parts of the law set to go into effect soon but other parts delayed or under question, President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation is in fragile condition.

It could slip away this month as Congress debates the federal budget. A spending plan, which some leaders say could end up being a vote to continue government operations at their current funding levels, is due by Oct. 1.

The question is whether that vote will include money for Obamacare.

Some Republican members of Congress say they’re ready to move in for the kill, cutting off that financial support. Count Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville in that group.

Burgess, a physician who has served in the House since 2003, has long been a voice of reason on healthcare issues, even willing to question his own party’s approach at times. But he’s ready to end Obamacare.

“People are becoming more and more aware of the problems,” Burgess told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board this past week.

Rolling out any program as large and complex as Obamacare is bound to have problems. Congress must decide what will help Americans most, wiping the slate clean and starting over or fixing those problems as they come up?

What’s the plan for helping millions of uninsured people if the Affordable Care Act goes away?

In anticipation of the new federal law going into effect, Texas has started winding down its Health Insurance Pool, which since 1998 has made health insurance available to people with preexisting conditions who can’t get coverage in the private market.

As of Oct. 1, those people can sign up for insurance under Obamacare, with coverage set to begin Jan. 1. The Texas high-risk pool will go away on Jan. 1.

What if Obamacare goes away? The plan for addressing that and many other healthcare issues is to let states decide what to do, Burgess said.

Requirements for large employers to provide health insurance for workers have been postponed a year until 2015, giving companies more time to come to grips with the rules.

Not so with the most-reviled part of the Affordable Care Act. The “individual mandate” is a requirement that everyone have health insurance (some with government assistance) or pay a penalty.

But at least in the first year, the $95 penalty is cheaper than an insurance policy. There’s much speculation that many people will simply opt out of coverage, at least until penalty amounts increase in 2015 and 2016.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week shows that Americans are confused by Obamacare’s intricacies.

About half (51 percent) say they don’t have enough information about the healthcare law to understand how it affects them and their family. That number has stayed roughly the same since the law was passed in 2010, the foundation reported.

Perhaps troubling for ACA supporters is that many people (44 percent) are not sure whether it is still the law of the land, some thinking it has been repealed or has been overturned by the Supreme Court.

Negative views of Obamacare (42 percent) run higher than favorable views (37 percent).

Still, most people (57 percent) disapprove of the Republicans’ planned attempt to cut off funding. The most commonly cited reason for that opinion, the foundation says, is that “using the budget process to stop a law is not the way our government should work.”

Even worse would be going back to no plan for Americans’ healthcare needs.

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