It’s been 100 years since ideological conservatives joined with doctors and insurance companies to kill the first movement in the United States for what was then called “compulsory health care.” Now, on the eve of their epic loss, those who deeply hate the idea that we have a collective responsibility to care for each other are desperately trying to stop history’s clock.
Beneath the tested rhetoric from opponents like the Heritage Foundation and Texas Senator Ted Cruz about a government takeover or Obamacare killing jobs and the economy, we can find expressions of the driving force behind the right’s obsession. One telling quote is from Missouri State Senator Rob Schaaf, who declared, “We can’t afford everything we do now, let alone provide free medical care to able-bodied adults.” Another is the proud statement from Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, who told me in a debate on Obamacare at the FDR Library,
Maria Guevara had been trying to get pregnant for three years when she saw a doctor at Los Angeles County General hospital in 2008. She was understandably thrilled, then, to learn she was indeed three months pregnant at the time of her visit. As Guevara later recalled, when the doctor asked her in English if she wanted to keep the baby, “without hesitation I replied ‘yes’ to his question. Before leaving the hospital, the doctor prescribed me medication that I thought was prenatal care. That lack of communication between the doctor and me has changed my life forever.”
Guevara took the prescribed medication, and experienced violent pain and bleeding. She returned to the hospital, where another doctor told her the bleeding was the result of a miscarriage.
“My baby was dead. The medication the initial doctor prescribed to me was not prenatal care but medication to induce an abortion,” she told a press conference in April at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
In the Appalachian foothills of Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta, the riverfront city of Rome serves as a regional hub for health care. Near Rome’s tree-lined historic downtown, there are two well-equipped acute care hospitals with a total of more than 530 beds. Two years ago, the Medical College of Georgia opened a satellite campus in the city.
But in Rome, 27 percent of adults under 65 are uninsured, a rate that holds true across the state. Last year, the city’s two hospitals report spending more than $80 million delivering uncompensated care, often in the emergency room, where costs run high. Taxpayers and those with health insurance will end up paying for that care through government subsidies and higher premiums, industry experts say.
Rome’s dilemma is exactly the situation that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was designed to fix — but that fix isn’t coming to Georgia.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it’s referred to, is going to dramatically change the way we live our lives and balance our budgets. The largest group of beneficiaries is working people who are currently not covered by their employer yet don’t earn enough to buy health insurance on their own, including a large number of food service and retail workers. These workers currently are forced to pay out of pocket, forgo medical treatment or rely on public health clinics.
You’d imagine these workers would be jumping for joy at the thought of a new federal law requiring their employers to help them meet a critical human need. Unfortunately, there is little recourse for these workers for the next two years. While most of the healthcare dialogue has revolved around the individual requirement, the recent announcement that the employer mandate will be pushed back until 2015 has quietly fallen off the radar.
In my post last week, after the announcement that the employer mandate would not be enforced for a year, I wrote that it was vital that the Obama administration show as much concern for the workers who might be denied health insurance as it did for employers. Specifically, I asked the administration to make clear that a worker would be able to get subsidized health coverage through the new exchanges based on filling out an application, without having to get proof from an employer. On Friday [July 5, the Department of Health and Human Services] issued that ruling.
The decision not to enforce the employer mandate for a year is certain to cost some people health coverage as some employers decide to postpone complying with the law. Their workers, possibly also confused by the delay, may not apply for subsidized coverage. But if they do apply, the new ruling will be a big help to them.