Still to Be Determined - The Missourian: Editorials

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Still to Be Determined

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Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 3:01 pm

In the wake of the Thursday’s Supreme Court’s surprising decision on the Affordable Care Act, most Americans are asking what does it mean for me?

It’s a fair question considering all of the hyperbole, distortions and the outright lies that have been disseminated in the hyper-partisan political debate over the health care bill.

Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of exaggerations of the law which was billed and sold as comprehensive health care reform. Spin doctors for each party ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Trying to sort out exactly how this massive and complicated package will impact the average person and our country’s health care system has been a challenge since it was passed in 2010.

Chief Justice Robert’s surprising redefinition of the centerpiece of the bill, “the individual mandate” — a requirement that everyone buy insurance — as a tax thereby rendering it constitutional, adds to the confusion.

The Affordable Care Act has been confusing to the average person since its inception. The Obama administration was successful in getting the bill through Congress but it did a poor job of selling and explaining it to the American public.

They allowed Republicans to define the bill as a massive government takeover of heath care. It’s not, but that view has resonated with a skeptical public that is rightly distrustful of government overreach. Any government mandate is going to offend our sense of liberty to some degree. Yet other government mandates, like the ones requiring people to purchase automobile insurance, are taken for granted.

Which is why the bill is widely unpopular today even though the majority of Americans support many of the individual tenants of the act such as those dealing with pre-existing conditions and free preventative care.

Some of the more outrageous claims regarding the bill, including that it would ration heath care and create death panels, are taken as fact by many when they are ridiculously false. But that hasn’t stopped critics from repeating them over and over and many people accepting them as fact.  

The reality is that the bill will have little impact on those who already receive insurance through their employers.

Likewise, it will do little or nothing to keep health care costs in check which, in our view, is the overarching problem with our country’s health care system. Health care costs have been skyrocketing the past few years and they are likely to continue even after the law is fully implemented.

Health insurance premiums are not going to go down as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

We spent about $2.7 trillion on health care last year — almost 18 percent of GDP. That’s more than $8,600 for every person in the United States. That is, as experts have pointed out, way too much as compared to other countries. This is the main issue and one that the bill doesn’t resolve.

The Affordable Care Act was intended to provide health care to the millions of Americans who are uninsured which is a laudable goal.

The law will offer an array of affordable heath care options to about 30 million uninsured Americans but will not help another estimated 20 million uninsured people. So it falls short in this regard as well.

The expansion of health care coverage comes at a price. The new law will be paid for through a myriad of new taxes and penalties. Some of these new taxes will be borne by businesses, others will be assessed to individuals.

The truth is the full ramifications of the bill won’t be understood for some time. And that is if the bill isn’t repealed or significantly revised before it is fully implemented.

If you believe that the Supreme Court’s decision settles the debate over the law, think again. If anything, it has reignited the debate over health care in this country. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The court’s decision does give Republicans another issue to unite behind. It could actually benefit them in November.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to make the repeal of the law his top priority if elected. He is a peculiar choice to lead the fight given his experience with health care in Massachusetts. Especially since the majority of people in that state like their version of “Romneycare.”

What does the law mean for the average person? Time will tell.

/opinion/editorials