We have heard so much rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that I would like to once again clarify some of the provisions in the bill. Gov. Romney has said on multiple occasions that he would repeal the bill, and I think it is essential for all of us who have walked the cancer road to understand what that means. He has said he will keep some of the most popular provisions, but I worry what will happen when this all again becomes a political football. What gains would we lose? How long will it take to makes changes? What happens in the meantime? The key points of the bill as it now stands, especially for those of us who have had cancer:
It outlaws discrimination because of pre-existing conditions. The Big C makes you quite an unpopular risk for Big Insurance. This bill changes that. Starting immediately, individuals without insurance and with a preexisting condition will have access to insurance. Starting in 2014—too long in my estimation—that applies to all individuals with insurance.
It provides a cushion for those of us with high health costs.
• Beginning immediately, it limits the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates because of health status.
• In January 2014, it will prohibit individual and group plans from placing annual limits on coverage.
• It prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy for any reason other than fraud. And it has happened that companies have cancelled the policies of cancer patients.
It helps those over 65 with high prescription medicine expenses by reducing the “doughnut hole,” an odd little Medicare glitch that means that once seniors have spent $2,830 on drugs, they must cover the full cost of their medicines until their out-of-pocket expenses have reached $4,550.
This is not a budget buster. The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will reduce the deficit by reducing overall healthcare costs. This is a non-partisan group that took into account all aspects of the bill. This is a complex issue, but the bill operates as a whole, cutting costs in things such as Medicare and Medicaid fraud and, yes, relying on everybody to be in the pool through the individual mandate. The fact is that, without the bill, our healthcare costs are already draining our economy. Throwing this back into the political arena could be a costly gambit.