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My Healthcare—and Yours—Hangs in the Balance

With the Supreme Court ruling on 'Obamacare' expected any day now, our 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.

Kerri Kneip Austin June 26, 2012 at 12:09 PM
A large part of the problem is more local and it's thanks to our state government. CT has no regulations on insurance companies whatsoever. In NY EVERyoNE is entitled to insurance, you cannot be denied. I don't know how that works for pre existing conditions, but I do know that pregnancy is not considered pre existing. NY also has the Healthy NY plans which are affordable plans for families and small businesses and the plans are the same as the high end plans, just with a higher deductible (2500) and more than 1k less a month! Personally I'd like to see us focus less on a federal level and more on a local level when it comes to the healthcare issue. That would make more sense for we the people and would be much More manageable. We may even have a chance at taming the beast. I hear MA has incredible health care laws!
Eileen June 26, 2012 at 12:59 PM
This article makes Obamacare seem like a "gift". It's not. Yes, people will be able to PURCHASE insurance that may have been excluded before, but at what price? Do people really think the insurance companies will be offering premiums at discount rates? They're not stupid. They'll make their money one way or another. You can be guaranteed they would have blocked this from the get go if it interfered with profits. Additionally, being FORCED by the government to purchase anything from a private entity is just wrong. What would be next? "To me, that says the Republicans have done a much better P.R. campaign than the Democrats ..." No, it says to me that people are bright enough to read between the lines. I carry my own policy and have for several years. My oldest daughter has diabetes, one of the biggest reasons insurance companies deny coverage. So it's not that I'm unsympathetic to the issue. However, Obamacare is NOT the answer. It will cost all of us big money in the end.
Bob J June 26, 2012 at 05:59 PM
"Let's hope the Supreme Court keeps the county moving forward?!" Sorry, but this is an elementary misstatement about the judiciary's function under Article III of the Constitution. It is the Court's job to maintain the delicate balance between the executive branch, the legislative branch, the several states and The People. It does that by making sure that each player stays within the lines when it comes to exercising its authority. It cannot allow one player to exceed its permissible powers for any reason, whether the intended outcome is good, bad or indifferent. Without the rule of law you have chaos. Keep in mind, the best example I have about the absence of laws is the rise of the Nazis in post- WWI Germany. And we saw how that turned out. Please go read your constitution- not the Cliff's Notes- the whole darn thing. Thank you. So let's just hope the Court does its job.

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