As the Republican inquisition against the Affordable Care Act continues, there is an underlining message that is being lost. The whole furor over the website is a misdirection attempt by Republicans to put the entire blame on President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. What those on the hearing panel fail to point out, is that months ago, they denied the funds that were meant to be used on the implementation. Incredibly, they now actually had the nerve to ask why it failed.
In May 2013, Ms. Sebelius’ request for additional funds for the implementation was denied repeatedly by the Congress, leaving the program with what officials described as a “shoestring budget.” The shortfall of the budget for the implementation came after so many “state’s rights” Republican governors refused to expand their Medicaid program and set up their own state exchange. The original expectation was that only a few headstrong governors would choose politics over helping their citizens. The reverse became true, where only 20 states thus far (along with the District of Columbia) have expanded their program and 30 states decided to put the burden on the federal government.
The decision of the governors to allow the federal government set up the exchange made the cost of implementation skyrocket. Originally, $1 billion had be allocated for the website and other implementation costs. When it became apparent that many Republican governors were abstaining, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the new cost to be between $5 and $10 billion over the next decade.
Originally, Sebelius and the White House asked for an additional $1 billion for fiscal 2013, which the Congress denied. They then asked for $1.5 billion for fiscal 2015, which, again, was denied.
“We requested additional money . . . but we didn’t receive any additional funding for the exchanges,” Ellen Murray, HHS’s assistant secretary for financial resources, said last month at a budget briefing. “So we’ve had to come up with a Plan B. We’ve been working very hard to develop that.”
The denial of additional funds left the HHS and White House holding their proverbial you know what in their hand. They had to resort to going to the insurance companies for fundraising. Predictably, the Republicans were opposed to this as well, and tried to pin illegal fundraising charges against them. Of course, the investigation found no wrongdoing.
This was the set up to the website problems, which Republicans do not acknowledge in their hearings. Further, because of the shortcomings with the website, the media has also refused to cover the successes of ObamaCare. Here is a short list of just some of the things that have changed under the ACA:
1. Millions of young Americans will get access to health care by staying on their parents’ plans.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 3.4 million young Americans now have coverage under their parents’ insurance plans that they can stay on until age 26.
2. You will no longer be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
Insurance companies will provide coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, a provision that will benefit all Americans when it takes full effect in 2014.
3. Your insurance will no longer be cut off due to spending caps.
Every American with insurance is now benefiting from the end of annual and lifetime spending caps, through which insurance companies would cut off payments in medical emergencies, thrusting millions of families into medical bankruptcy.
4. You will now be guaranteed much more comprehensive coverage.
All insurance plans are required to cover 10 essential benefits, including mental health services, laboratory work and hospitalization. Preventative care is now free to every insured American.
5. The Affordable Care Act will cover millions of Americans who have lacked insurance.
Rates of uninsured Americans are dropping, for instance by 10% in Oregon, and are likely to drop even further and faster, especially in those states that have expanded Medicaid access. But even people who don’t qualify for Medicaid will find they can now afford insurance thanks to competitive rates in the exchanges and subsidies for which most seeking insurance will qualify.
6. The Affordable Care Act is projected to lower the deficit.
According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, ObamaCare will actually lower the deficit by $109 billion over the next decade. That’s through a combination of cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates (which were not in line with other reimbursement rates) and new taxes.
The overhauling of an entire industry is neither something that should be taken lightly, nor should we expect everything to be perfect instantly. The health insurance industry has had over 150 years to create the mess we know today, yet Republicans and fellow critics expect the entire process to happen over night, simply because one website went live. The fact is, the Affordable Care Act will be a process before everything is working smoothly, but things will work smoothly. The website problems will be fixed. Everybody will be insured. Instead of fighting change and advising their followers to do the same, if Republicans would only fall in line and help make the process better, we would be a better nation.
Senator Barbara Boxer shares success stories from her state of California. A state that instituted their own state exchange and expanded the Medicaid program to 400% over the poverty line. States that did not expand Medicaid will only reach those 133% over the poverty line.