With President Obama's landmark health care law, the Affordable Care Act, hitting its one year anniversary it’s time to reflect: was it good or bad for America?
Well, unless you like insurance companies denying treatment for pre-existing conditions or rescinding coverage after a person gets sick or lifetime caps that don’t begin to cover treatments for serious diseases, you would have to agree it has been a net benefit.
Or perhaps you miss the days when people were trapped in jobs because they had a medical issue that prevented them from leaving for fear of having their coverage denied under a new health care plan. According to research at MIT, 1.6 million small business workers suffer from “job lock.”
As David Kendall at the centrist think tank Third Way pointed out to me, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, insurers will again be able to discriminate against our children because of a pre-existing condition. Last year, roughly 19 million children may have had a pre-existing condition, 540,000 of whom were uninsured.
But it’s a “government takeover of health care,” the detractors scream.
Far from it.
In fact, PolitiFact named this notion the “Lie of the Year.”
The truth is, President Obama’s health care plan was but one step in the direction of the kind of health care reform the U.S. really needs. There simply is nothing in the law that establishes government-run health care.
Instead, there are health care exchanges made up of private insurers. If this is what passes for socialism, it’s pretty weak tea.
Then there is the hue and cry about the individual mandate. What makes conservative criticism of this so strange is that it was once an idea championed by the right that fit nicely with the “individual responsibility” theme. In fact, a July 1990 Heritage Foundation proposal recommended that the “government [should] require by law every head of household to acquire at least a basic health plan for his or her family.”
Another criticism of Obama’s plan is that health insurance premiums are going up. But they have been going up for ten years. If Obama’s plan had never passed, they still would have gone up. Gary Claxton, a vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that for many plans federal reforms account for maybe "1½ percent" of the rise in premiums.
In Ohio, the Department of Insurance told the Plain Dealer that "federal reforms are generally raising the rates less than 5 percent" and "the other part of it is medical inflation and the continuing trend of rising health care costs." Where there are higher premiums they are also likely linked to better coverage.
There is still much to be done in the area of health care reform, especially regarding reigning in the out of control increase in health care spending in this country. First and foremost should be a measure that would change the fee-for-service structure that incentivizes doctors to do unnecessary tests or perform more expensive procedures that will get a higher reimbursement rate.
President Obama himself has indicated that the law is just a first step and is open to revisions and betterment. He demonstrated this with his openness to eliminating small employers’ need to file 1099 forms, something both parties can actually agree on.
The Affordable [Health] Care Act is far from perfect, but it is indisputably better than what we had before and counts as a major achievement for the Obama administration.
Kirsten Powers is a Fox News political analyst and New York Post columnist.