Quantcast

Health care law gets mixed reviews on anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — The federal health care law marked its first anniversary today with applause and a new round of criticism.

By Diane Lee

SPRINGFIELD — The federal health care law marked its first anniversary today with applause and a new round of criticism.

Supporters used the one-year mark to boast about expanded health coverage with news releases and conferences.

Opponents to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ventured online to post tweets bashing "#ObamaCare," a moniker that came about after President Barack Obama signed the health reforms into law last year.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, took its campaign against health care reform to Twitter on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Raegan Weber said 43 states have introduced legislation to allow for legal challenges to parts of the law, including the requirement to buy health insurance.

ALEC is a nonprofit organization that touts the Jeffersonian principles of free markets and favors "limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public, according to its website.

"We are tweeting messages on the successes of the states and pushing back against the unconstitutional federal mandate," Weber said. "As well as the damaging effects of the Obamacare legislation on the states."

Several federal judges have ruled parts or all of the new law unconstitutional — forcing the law to most likely be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court — but states still are preparing for full implementation of the measure.

In Illinois, lawmakers have introduced opt-out measures. Weber said Senate Bill 2175 and House Bill 1880 would help "protect citizens from the federal mandate," as she put it.

"The problem with Obamacare is it forces people to buy something they shouldn't have to buy," Weber said. "It should be somebody's choice whether they want to purchase health care or not. And it is unconstitutional for the federal government to force citizens to buy anything."

But supporters don't see it that way.

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston issued a statement saying the new law made health care a right. "We recognized that health care costs should not impoverish individual Americans or cause them personal bankruptcies, and they should not prevent small businesses from being able to prosper."

“The law makes health care affordable for the middle class, provides security for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and guarantees access to health insurance coverage for the uninsured. It finally puts healthcare in the hands of the consumer, not the big insurance companies," Schakowsky added.

Michael McRaith, director of Illinois Department of Insurance, said the health care law expands coverage to about 32 million Americans who are without insurance, including 1.5 million Illinois residents.

"It is an important reality in Illinois that many people are significantly underinsured because they might have a policy, but that policy excludes coverage for pre-existing condition," McRaith said during a phone conference on Wednesday. "So many insurers will offer coverage to individuals, but (do) not cover their actual health care needs."

Under the health care reforms, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children under 19 with pre-existing conditions like leukemia, cerebral palsy or AIDS. Adults denied insurance for pre-existing condition can buy a new coverage plan.

"We know people are denied coverage by virtue of having been ill in prior years, regardless of the likelihood of reoccurrence," McRaith said. "We know people are denied, because they might be sick in the future, or often are denied or priced out of coverage simply because of age. That happens in Illinois with great regularity."

The federal changes also allow adult children under 26 to remain on their parent's insurance plan, provides tax credits for small businesses, and offers prescription drug discounts to some seniors. While parts of the law have taken effect, the bulk of the reforms do not begin until 2014, when low-income childless adults will be allowed to participate in Medicaid for the first time, according to HealthCare.gov.

McRaith described the health insurance market as "dysfunctional," because it used to be very competitive. Despite attacks to the law, consumers have more control over coverage, he noted.

"There is some disruption, and definitely some discomfort among the insurers," McRaith said. "But we know consumers buying insurance today are better protected than they were a year ago."

Neither McRaith nor Weber had a guess at what the first year of the new federal health care law has cost. There are wildly different estimates of what the changes will cost states and the federal government going forward. But supporters and opponents agree the price tag will be large.

Editors’ Picks