Health Care Reform Benefits: Truth vs. Pure Politics
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Six months ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of health care legislation in more than a generation. Six months later and the sky is still there, grandma hasn't been euthanized, and the dreaded death panels have ceased to materialize. Six months later and insurance companies have begun to be held accountable, small businesses have begun to receive important tax breaks to provide health benefits, and premiums for seniors on Medicare Advantage plans are lower and enrollment is higher. And today, just six months after becoming law, even more benefits of reform take effect.
Not long ago, I explained how in this short span of time, the health care reform law has begun to tackle the very serious problem of rising health care costs for small businesses. Before reform, the stifling effect of double digit premium increases left small businesses with two poor choices of either shifting more of the cost onto employees or not offering health coverage altogether. But right now, according to the non partisan consumer group Families USA, over 83 percent of small businesses are eligible to receive a substantial tax credit towards their health care premiums, putting them on a path to financial security and allowing them to create more jobs.
Today, Americans all across the country can enjoy new benefits as a result of the Affordable Care Act that some have termed the new "Patient's Bill of Rights." I think that is an apt title for these important and long overdue reforms. Provisions such as prohibiting the denial of children based on pre-existing conditions and making the reprehensible practice of rescissions illegal represent a major shift in making America's health care system more equitable and fair for consumers. Additional provisions such as free preventive care for all indicate a move toward making our system give priority to "health care" rather than "sick care." This will increase quality and reduce out-of-control costs from chronic disease which accounts for two-thirds of every health care dollar spent.
Six months later and there is no sign of abatement in the misinformation campaign which continues to paint provisions in the health reform law as an abomination, bad for American consumers and a complete government takeover. But beyond the hysteria of phantom death panels, where is the abomination? Show me the provisions that will hurt consumers, because if you think a $110 billion a year tax break for working class Americans to buy private health insurance is a government takeover, I welcome the debate.
Former President Bill Clinton recently observed that he miscalculated how popular the health reform law would be for two reasons: it took several years to completely take effect and the detractors have used a very effective scare campaign. The misinformation campaign is so rampant that even those fully aware of reform's benefits to the American people, are instead choosing to downplay their support for fear of an angry electorate. This is not a winning strategy in my opinion.
Rather than capitulate to the politics of fear, the administration, the Congress, and the media have an obligation to accurately explain the Affordable Care Act, even if it means going provision by provision, and line by line. I have stood on the front lines of the health care system as a doctor, patient and concerned parent. Those experiences have served as my guideposts throughout the struggle to reform America's health care system. And it's those same experiences that tell me that fear and election hysteria should not overshadow the reality of reform.
Jim McDermott was born in Chicago, IL on December 28, 1936. He was the first member of his family to attend college, and went on to finish medical school. After completing his medical residency and military service, he made his first run for public office in 1970 and served in the State Legislature from the 43rd district in Washington State. In 1974, he ran for the State Senate, and held the office for