Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, but it's progressBy Wayne Madsen
WASHINGTON -- Sixteen million Americans who haven't access to medical care are eagerly awaiting the Oct. 1 start of the Affordable Care Act, and now Republicans and a few willy-nilly Democrats are saying, "No, it's not perfect, let's defund it and start over."
What unprincipled malarkey. Of course, it's not perfect!
No piece of legislation that wends its way through the sausage factory on Capitol Hill ever deserves a Grade A stamp, but implementing the legislation as it stands and making needed fixes later is a far better choice than dumping it into the waste stream whole hog.
Barring the unlikely event that Congress should suddenly follow the world's other progressive industrialized nations and enact single-payer health care, the ACA is as good as it gets as a starter bill.
Indeed, the administration's implementation team under the wise leadership of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius is in the process of hiring several thousand "navigators" to fan out across America and guide people through the bill's most confusing labyrinths.
And the Internal Revenue Service is set to hire more than 10,000 agents who will be specially trained to collect reasonable tax penalties from those who choose to opt out of the federal program. It is hoped the numbers of young people and small businesses who decide to unwind themselves from the nation's social fabric will be much, much smaller than many right-wing critics are projecting.
This is the one thing that the president and Sibelius are confident of -- that Americans who actually try the health-care law will like it and find it the answer to their long-term medical needs.
After all, what's not to like when you consider its outstanding features, including:
The elimination of pre-existing conditions that big insurance companies have used unmercifully over the decades to rake-in some of the largest profits on earth.
The bill also requires that at least 85 percent of large-group premiums and 80 percent of small-group and individual premiums be spent directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care. Forcing Big Insurance to spend most of the dollars they take in on actual health care for patients is almost revolutionary. Insurers whose actual spending is below those levels will have to refund the difference. Government estimates suggest that 12.8 million Americans will get rebates totaling $1.1 billion - or an average of about $151 per household.
Opponents of the law have been warning that not enough young Americans will be civic-minded enough to enroll in the program and instead pay the relatively low opt fee of $95. Such cynicism likely is misplaced, but it should be noted that the law allows an estimated 3.1 million young Americans who would have lacked health coverage to remain on their parents' health insurance up to age 26.
There have been some glitches and delays along the way, but Sibelius and other administration officials are confident that things will go smoothly when consumers and businesses begin to sign up for benefits.
"We know we have a lot of work to do," she told reporters recently, "but we'll be ready for whatever comes up."
That's good news not just for millions of uninsured citizens, but more for America's reputation as beacon for the rest of the world. At long last it puts our country on the path of social justice already taken by so many other nations.
The trip along that path may be bumpy at times, but the result will be a healthier United States - one that is able to meet all the economic challenges of what looks to be an increasingly turbulent and eventful 21st century.
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to www.onlinejournal.com.
Plagued by delays, law is too flawed to implementBy Amy Ridenour
WASHINGTON -- The Affordable Care Act should be defunded -- even the president concedes it's not ready for prime time.
President Obama has delayed the requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide health insurance. He has delayed the cap on how much an individual or family with insurance can be required to spend out-of-pocket. He's delayed the exchanges through which small businesses were supposed to be able to find affordable health insurance. And he's delayed checks to determine whether people who claim to qualify for subsidies to help them pay for health insurance actually qualify for such aid.
Don't expect privacy when you buy health insurance on one of the health law's exchanges, either, because the administration is late in employing security systems to keep your medical and financial information private, although this violates federal law.
And the administration has decided that so-called "navigators" -- people who will receive up to $48 an hour to sign people up for health care -- don't have to have background checks before taking jobs that will give them access to your private information.
Eighty-two deadlines have come and gone. The administration has missed not 15 percent of them, not 25 percent of them, but a full 50 percent of them.
The health-care reform law was enacted by majorities in both the House and Senate in 2009, so it already has been a law in-waiting a full two years longer than the United States fought in World War I. Yet that still hasn't been long enough for the administration that helped to write it -- and which ardently supported it -- to implement it according to the timetable it created for it.
The delays aren't the only parts of the law that signal disaster.
As my colleague David Hogberg determined in a study published in August, young Americans -- the so-called "young invincibles" who think they won't get sick -- are likely to drag their feet on buying health insurance because it will cost a lot, lot more than the fine for not buying it. This is yet another critical problem for the health-care law because premiums from the young and healthy were supposed to help reduce premiums for the older and sicker.
So expect the law to deliver even more health insurance premium increases, and if you a think being in Medicare will protect your wallet, think again. The president raided Medicare to disguise the true cost of the ACA to help get it passed.
The Affordable Care Act also kills jobs. According to a recent Gallup survey, the effects on employment have been nothing short of horrendous. With the law's starting date only a month away, 19 percent of businesses with less than $20 million in annual sales have already cut jobs. Forty-one percent of them say they have frozen hiring and an additional 38 percent have "pulled back on their plans to grow their business."
Stories of businesses converting full-time jobs into part-time are all over the news.
Even a part of the law both the U.S. House and Senate agree should be repealed still sticks around like a bad hospital virus: the innovation and job-killing tax on medical devices.
One of the few aspects of the law the administration seemingly has managed to implement successfully is a song program.
You read that right.
It's a federal program to give $3,000 of your tax money to the person who can create the best song, cartoon or video extolling the benefits of the law. Seriously!
President Obama and his allies wrote the law exactly how they wanted it, and yet haven't been able to implement it. What could be stronger evidence that the law is a dud?
The ACA is expected to cost the taxpayers $1.9 trillion over the next decade. Let's save that money and replace the act with a health-care reform plan that can work.
Amy Ridenour is chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank.
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