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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.

Peter F. Alexander June 26, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Wonderful of you to share such personal information. Connecticut is really the heart of the problem. We moved from being famous worldwide for fake Nutmegs sales to unsuspecting fad followers. Next our fame was over being the "Insurance State". If we citizens insisted on being allowed to choose any health insurance available instead of just a "select few" , prices would plummet. Either ruling should get us all fired up to bring fairness through competition to the market place, not just nutmeg insurance.
Roy Tepper June 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM
COBRA also has an 18 month extension possible, not just 18 months; for a total of 36 months. I know you only have 4 days remaining and time is short, but if you can check it out...............
Deborah Galle June 26, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I am sorry for your personal situation. Many people (including me) are facing similar issues. However, the evidence of the tragic failures of government-run health care in places like Canada and the UK make clear that it is not the solution here in America. Instead, we need reform based on the principles of choice, competition, accountability, and personal responsibility.
Harry Dill June 26, 2012 at 02:53 PM
In theory we are propagandized to believe that an unfettered free-market will yield a positive return on our collective good faith. Is laissez faire the modus operandi that will guarantee American citizens essential health care? Of course not. Hasn't Wall Street already provided more than adequate incontrovertible evidence. Competition in the free market does not necessarily result in reduced cost. In the final analysis, the arbiter of cost is EPS and fundamental greed regardless of the service or commodity offered for a price.
Bill King June 26, 2012 at 08:17 PM
My doctor charged about $200 for a flu shot. The Town of Greenwich charged my wife $25. There's inconsistency in cost. Consider the community clinic to provide healthcare for those who would prefer to pay or can only afford to pay $25 rather than $200.
Paul Ricard June 26, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Canada's health care system is a phenomenal success! The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. while the single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Ten percent of Canada's GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.
Harry Dill June 26, 2012 at 10:30 PM
"We the people" have been conditioned to accept media propaganda as truth. Perhaps the tide is turning as more of us begin to recognize this reality and that we may choose not to accede to the political deception, fiscal corruption, and government inefficiency that continues to undermine our general welfare and the continued prosperity of our nation. We need to widen our perspective and to seek alternative new feeds that will enable us to make better informed decisions and not be hoodwinked into joining the ranks of entrenched sycophants that support our lawmakers and sustains U.S. based multi-national profiteering. Can we honestly and intelligently afford to continue to denigrate the Canadian healthcare system vis-a-vis the biased news we have grown accustomed to believing is reliable? I think not.
Chuck E. Arla June 27, 2012 at 01:18 PM
1) Canadians come in droves to the U.S. for diagnostic testing (MRI, etc) surgery and other procedures because of the interminable wait for such services in Canada. 2) Re: "In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be." This in NO WAY resembles the impending Big Brother "medical" boards of the impending U.S. system.
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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