For nearly a year — ever since the new health care legislation passed into law — Republicans have insisted they will “repeal and replace” it. But now that they are in power in the House, they’ve put a lot more emphasis on the repeal than on the replace.
Yesterday, though, President Obama played some very clever politics with governors convened for their winter meeting. The president challenged them to fix the health care law:
“I am aware that I have not yet convinced everybody here to be a member of the Affordable Care Act fan club. … I am not open to refighting the battles of the last two years,” Obama said. “I am willing to work with anyone in this room, Democrat or Republican, governors or members of Congress to make this law even better.”
President Obama, who has stood by his landmark health care law through court attacks and legislative efforts to repeal it, told the nation’s governors on Monday that he was willing to amend the measure to give states the ability to opt out of its most controversial requirements right from the start, including the mandate that most people buy insurance.
In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Obama said he supported legislation that would allow states to obtain waivers from the mandate as soon as it took effect in 2014, as long as they could find another way to expand coverage without driving up health care costs. Under the current law, states must wait until 2017 to obtain waivers . . .
The legislation would allow states to opt out earlier from a range of requirements, including the mandate, if they could demonstrate that other methods would allow them to cover as many people, with insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, as provided by the new law. The changes must also not increase the federal deficit.
If GOP leaders want to fix health care, they have to take into consideration problems such as those faced by Donna Dubinsky, who wrote in the NYT that no insurer will sell her a health insurance policy:
Most employees assume that if they lose their job and the health coverage that comes along with it, they’ll be able to purchase insurance somewhere. The members of Congress who want to repeal the provision of last year’s health insurance law that makes it easier for individuals to buy coverage must assume that uninsured people do not want to buy it, or are just too cheap or too poor to do so.
The truth is that individual health insurance is not easy to get.
I found this out the hard way. Six years ago, my company was acquired. Since my husband had retired a few years earlier, we found ourselves without an employer and thus without health insurance.
My husband, teenage daughter and I were all active and healthy, and I naïvely thought getting health insurance would be simple.
Why did we even need insurance? First, we wanted to know that, if we had a medical catastrophe, we would not exhaust our savings. Second, uninsured patients are billed more than the rates that insurers negotiate with doctors and hospitals, and we wanted to pay those lower rates. The difference is significant: my recent M.R.I. cost $1,300 at the “retail” rate, while the rate negotiated by the insurance company was $700.
An insurance broker helped me sort through the options. I settled on a high-deductible plan, and filled out the long application. I diligently listed the various minor complaints for which we had been seen over the years, knowing that these might turn up later and be a basis for revoking coverage if they were not disclosed.
Then the first letter arrived — denied. It never occurred to me that we would be denied! Yes, we had listed a bunch of minor ailments, but nothing serious. No cancer, no chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes, no hospital stays.
(Her essay is worth reading in its entirety.)
So will Republicans now “replace” health care? Ummm, no.
Mr. Obama’s announcement did not appear to appease his Republican critics. The House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, told reporters that the health law was “an impediment to job growth” and that Republicans remained committed to its repeal.
They don’t care that many Americans cannot buy health insurance.
– Cynthia Tucker