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My Healthcare—and Yours—Hangs in the Balance

With the Supreme Court ruling on 'Obamacare' expected any day now, our 'Patch In' columnist explains why she hopes the justices will let the law stand.

 

My family may lose our health insurance this coming Saturday.

But by this Thursday, millions of people will find out if they will be able to afford healthcare coverage as spelled out in President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—more familiarly known as “Obamacare.”

Sometime this week, the Supreme Court will hand down its decision on the constitutionality of ACA, likely by this Thursday.  One of the major objections opponents have to the law is whether or not the government can mandate that all citizens have to buy or secure health insurance—the ‘individual mandate.’ They argue it’s unconstitutional, and that government cannot force anyone to buy anything.

Healthcare coverage is not just divisive legally; it’s a hot-button topic academically, politically, economically, and, of course, personally. When my husband was laid off 18 months ago, in addition to immediately questioning how we’d keep paying the mortgage and put food on the table, the biggest question was, “What about medical coverage?”

Thankfully, his former employer offered coverage through COBRA. It was an incredibly expensive option, but it allowed us to maintain coverage at exactly the same level we’d been used to, albeit at a costlier level.

COBRA only lasts 18 months.  As of this writing we have four days left.

Now facing the myriad search for health insurance, we’ve filled out an application for a plan. At least with the options we considered at the price we could afford, we were presented with plans that didn’t cover maternity or mental health. Fingers crossed, we’ll get the approval—we have children, and we want coverage for wellness care as well as for the ‘god forbid’ situations. But to do so we had to detail every bump, bruise, diagnostic procedure, doctor visit, medical problem and possible family history issue of the last 10 years. We wondered, would anything raise a flag and possibly prevent us from getting coverage?

There’s family history of colon and stomach cancer; would routine screenings still be covered for that? What about family history of thyroid cancer; would I still be able to have a yearly ultrasound screening to check, even without incidence of the disease myself? Would the one visit we made to the E.R. exactly nine years and 11 months ago lower our chances for being approved?

Everyone has a story, some more sob story than others, when it comes to coverage. I have a friend who has MS, and no matter that she has been gainfully employed since forever and a day, she’s unable to secure healthcare coverage at all. During the debate over the ACA in Congress, stories popped up daily of individuals who would otherwise suffer unless the legislation passed.

There are passionate arguments and rational defenses of both sides. Of course, I’m encouraged when even a conservative writes to defend the constitutionality of the ACA. For me, I think this is a law that should be upheld. There are several important things that will be supported by the passage of this law, and should it be struck down by an activist court, we stand to lose greatly.

  1. More than 30 million Americans who are currently without healthcare coverage, will be able to find coverage because of the ACA.
  2. Small businesses will have more ability to find competitive pricing on plans and they’ll get tax credits for providing insurance for their employees.
  3. No longer will Americans with pre-existing conditions be denied insurance coverage, as of 2014.
  4. Other disenfranchised groups will have more protection and ability to keep or find coverage—including early retirees and lower income families. Also, more than 3.1 million young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health care plans through the age of 26.

These advantages not only benefit the individual but they truly serve our business community—small businesses will be able to attract and keep employees by being able to provide attractive benefit plans; workers can better maintain their health, keeping up their ability to work and increasing productivity. Economically, it will be a fairer marketplace.

Interestingly, the public, for the most part, supports the separate parts of the law, but when asked whether they support Obamacare, 56 percent of them say no, according to a Reuters poll out this past Sunday. Over 60 percent are opposed to the individual mandate. To me, that says the Republicans have done a much better P.R. campaign than the Democrats and the Obama administration have.

Who knows how the Supreme Court justices will rule this week. It’s so up in the air that, according to the New York Times, last week House Speaker John Boehner issued a memo to his fellow Republicans, stating, “We will not celebrate at a time when millions of our fellow Americans remain out of work, the national debt has exceeded the size of our nation’s economy, health costs continue to rise, and small businesses are struggling to hire.” The question is whether all Republicans agree that absolute for or against isn’t what is best for the public—or for their future electability.

Healthcare is such a complex, difficult animal to legislate, it’s remarkable that any legislation got through at all, given how much disagreement there has been during this administration and failures during past ones.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court justices decide to keep moving the country in a forward direction—and perhaps the voters will have their final, Democratic say about it, come November.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the author's byline.

Eileen June 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Why was my post removed? Hmmmmm....didn't like that I shot down Obamacare for the money maker it will be for insurance companies?????
Concerned Parent June 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Although I can acknowledge your situation, it does not justify a broad mandate requiring ALL Americans to purchase health insurance from private healthcare companies. I firmly believe it was an over-zealous decision made by those in DC to pass this bill into law, despite how the country was split in their support of it. I'm confident by saying that every American understands that we need healthcare reform in this country, but the bill that was passed was signed by our President in haste.
Yooper June 27, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Thanks for providing some facts about Canada...not that the ditto heads commenting here will comprehend any of them.
GPSParent June 28, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Having grown up in Toronto and gone to college and started my professional career in Vancouver, I have never known anyone to come to the US for medical care. I'm sure it happens, I don't doubt that, but "coming in droves" I think is significantly overstated. There are definitely drawbacks to the Canadian system (longer wait times), but from the perspective of the quality of service for the country I think it works great (those that doctors believe need to be prioritized are based on their medical condition, not their financial). No system is perfect, there is much more of a safety net in Canada for everything. In the end, it is probably more of a question of how much are you willing to give up so someone you don't know can live with a certain standard of life vs. how much you want to keep for yourself. And with this law, how much of that decision should be made by you vs. the government. In Canada, medical services are paid for by the income taxes collected. So that takes out the profit making model.
Rosa Fini, MD August 15, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Unfortunately, the PPACA does nothing to bring costs down, and it adds dramatically ($1.7 Trillion and counting!) to the national debt. It also will give too mush power to the Sec of HHS in that the boards and that office will henceforth determine what the "standard of care" is not he mediacal community. And it should be noted that the Boards are about 15-25 people with only one doctor per board.Yet it is absolutely wrong for people to go bankrupt because of health expenses, or not get preventive care becasue they dont have insurance. There has to be a better way to keep good care and not explode the national debt. The ideaof health reform needs to be revisited, with ALL sides invited to the table. I found it provacative that during the PPACA deliberations not one of the doctors that were in Congress at the time was invited to give theri opinion and help write the legislation.

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