Inside This Issue - News
Health care reform still being contested
February 14th, 2011
WASHINGTON – Congress and the courts, like the American public, remain divided on the health care reform law.
Although the Republican-controlled House voted to overturn the measure, Democrats have ruled out the possibility of a repeal vote in the Senate. President Obama has asked legislators to “fix what needs fixing and move forward” rather than “refighting the battles of the last two years.”
But the statute also continues to be challenged in court, with a second federal judge ruling late last month that the law’s “individual mandate” requiring the purchase of health insurance was unconstitutional. Two other federal judges have upheld the law.
Federal judge Roger Vinson said the insurance requirement was so “inextricably bound” to other provisions of the Affordable Care Act as to make the whole statute invalid. “The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Vinson wrote.
The judge chose not to suspend the law pending appeals, a process that could last two years and is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, a recent AP-GfK poll found that 41% of Americans oppose the health care reform law and 40% support it. Strong opposition to the statute stood at 30%, close to the lowest level in polls going back more than a year.
Conceding that the health care reform repeal effort will be stymied in the Senate, House Republicans said they would press ahead with their opposition, seeking to cut off funding for the law and pass legislation to eliminate specific parts the measure, such as the “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to have health insurance.
Less than a day after voting for repeal, GOP lawmakers said they would pass bills to achieve some of the same objectives as the law but with less federal government involvement.
Four committees have been directed to draft legislation that would replace the law while maintaining the effort to lower insurance premiums through greater competition; provide coverage for people with preexisting conditions; increase the number of Americans with insurance; and provide states with more flexibility to run Medicaid programs.
Freshman Rep. Steve Stivers (R., Ohio) commended the law for letting children stay on their parents’ insurance until they reach the age of 26, and other Republicans praised a provision that helps seniors with prescription drug costs.
Democrats said it would be hard for Republicans to pick and choose among sections of the law because the popular and unpopular parts were intertwined. But Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said revisiting the law is “not unreasonable.”
The White House said it would move ahead with the health care law, undeterred by the uproar on Capitol Hill.
The Department of Health And Human Services (HHS) released reports finding that 129 million American with a preexisting condition could be denied health insurance coverage without the law, and that the statute would dramatically benefit families and businesses.
“The new law is already helping to free Americans from the fear that an insurer will drop, limit or cap their coverage when they need it most,” said HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “And Americans living with preexisting conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need.”
Sebelius also cited findings that, beginning in 2014, the law could save a low-income family of four up to $14,900 annually, and that businesses will benefit from savings and tax credits. “For too long, skyrocketing health care costs have made it hard for businesses to provide coverage for employees and have made it difficult for families to afford coverage,” she said.
The law is giving families and businesses “more freedom, choices and savings in their health care coverage,” Sebelius added. Without it, “consumers and businesses would face higher premiums, fewer insurance choices and rapidly rising health care costs.”