Care 411

What is Obamacare?

The United States of America is the only prosperous industrialized country that does not ensure complete health coverage for all of its citizens.  A revolutionary and controversial healthcare plan called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act(PPACA), nicknamed “Obamacare”, is set to make some radical changes in America’s healthcare policy.  The PPACA was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

The Act reforms some parts of the private health insurance industry and public health insurance programs.  It boosts insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, and provides greater access to insurance for over 30 million Americans.  Under the provisions of the Act, uninsured and self-employed citizens will be able to acquire insurance through state-based exchanges.  The Act will allow individuals and families with a household income between the range of 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level to obtain their own health insurance and be eligible for subsidies.  The Act also increases projected national medical spending while lowering projected Medicare spending.  Most of these changes will be implemented over the next several years, but the debate over whether “Obamacare” is good for the nation continues to rage on.

Key Changes in Healthcare Policy

  • Insurance companies will be unable to refuse children coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Children of parents with insurance can now remain covered under those policies up to the age of 26.
  • Insurance companies will be henceforth forbidden from ceasing coverage for any reason but customer fraud.
  • Insurance companies will no longer be able to cap the amount of benefits and treatment a person can receive in a lifetime.
  • From now, Insurers cannot charge customers for preventive and diagnostic services like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • High-risk pools are compelled to cover those who have been refused coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

The main bone of contention of this healthcare bill is the stipulation that makes it mandatory for every citizen to purchase private health insurance, which is a first in American history.  Also, according to the Act, insurance companies are now required to include coverage for contraception and abortion.  This has not been well received by religious organizations that oppose contraception and abortion for moral reasons.

This Act did not go over well in Congress, either.  The PPACA was passed by the Senate on 24th December, 2009, by a vote of 60–39, with every Democrat and two Independents voting in favor the Act, and all Republicans voting against it.  On March 21, 2010, the Act was passed by the House of Representatives, by a vote margin of 219–212, with 34 Democrats and every one of the 178 Republicans voting against the bill.

Obamacare allegedly violates America’s Constitutional Law and more than twenty federal lawsuits have been moved against Obamacare right from the time when President Barack Obama signed it into law.  Most of the states, a number of organizations, and individuals, have filed actions in federal court questioning the constitutionality of Obamacare or the PPACA.  As of January 2012, two of the four federal appellate courts have upheld the Act and a third declared that the individual mandate to acquire private health insurance is unconstitutional.  On November 30, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon, who presides in Virginia, also declared that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.  It was on January 31, 2011 that Judge Roger Vinson declared the law unconstitutional in an action filed by 26 states, on the basis that the individual mandate to purchase insurance is against the constitutional policy.  U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is quoted as saying the law “exceeds the constitutional boundary of congressional power.”

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) alleges that there are no redeeming provisions of Obamacare plan, and offered a number of criticisms of the Obamacare plan as well.

Now over the fear of rising premiums, even some of the president’s Republican critics have started calling for a repeal of the legislation.  However, some view Obamacare as legislation that guarantees health coverage to everyone who wants it.  Many believe that it will be a lifesaver for millions.

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