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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.

marlene kimberly June 26, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I too am on Cobra and have been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition although I am healthy, work and see regularly doctors when checkups are due. ObamaCare ME!
Chuck E. Arla June 26, 2012 at 01:39 PM
If SCOTUS allows the mandate stand then there is absolutely nothing that Uncle will not be able to force you to do. The Consitution will be shredded; the federal government all powerful and the states quaint anachronisims. The way to get health insurance costs down is to allow compettion AND POLICY CUSTOMIZATION across state lines. That i sexactly what was done for auto insurance . . .and remember how much more expensive it used to be? When government keeps mandating various features be added to all health insurance policies whether you want them or not....what do they care they aren't paying for it, "the insurance comp[anioes are." Yea right, just like corporations "pay" excise and income taxes....that gets passed on to the consumer.
Cathy June 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Cobra is much more expensive than the existing plans that are out there. Government should NOT be in the healthcare business as they do a horrible job. Ever been to a Veteran's hospital or know someone on the free state plan? Horribly long wait and poor care provided. Chuck is correct when he states insurance should be sold over state lines. This would help dramatically to reducing the cost. Obamacare does nothing but RAISE healthcare costs. My current individual plan is "grandfathered" for a short while so my rates didn't go through the roof monthly. If Obamacare is moved forward I won't be able to afford my current plan and will have to have a huge deductible. They do need to do something about pre-existing conditions to fix that issue and it's nice to be able to keep your children on your policy for a while given the bad economic state our country is in.
MAC June 27, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Heather, the Democrats are NOT taking our nation in a "forward" direction, unless you consider becoming like the European 'nanny states,' which are going BANKRUPT, to be "progress." Yes, there are big problems of "affordability" of health care in the U.S., but "Obamacare" does NOT solve those, as the CBO has already admitted! And if it is so great, then why has the Obama administration already granted some 2,000 "waivers" to participation in it, such as to McDonalds, and many, many other companies and Union CRONIES of Obama and his party??! Most Americans are against it, because they realize: 1) If the government controls your health care, then they can do pretty much anything they want TO you!!! 2) It IS "un-Constitutional" for the government to "mandate" that people buy a product or service! I do hope that you and your family get your health care policy, but your husband and others will have much better job prospects when Obama is no longer in the WH. I am curious as to whether you checked out the Charter Oak plans that CT state offers.

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