This March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which for the first time will require all Americans to obtain health insurance two years from now under a provision called the individual mandate.
If the nine justices rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, those 26 states challenging health care reform will urge them to take the next step and scrap the rest of the Affordable Care Act as well.
I'm a big fan of President Obama's historic health care reform. Without it, health care's ruinous fee-for-service paradigm that has hijacked patient care in the name of profit could very likely drive our economy off the cliff.
The individual mandate would insure an additional 30 million Americans, some with the help of government subsidies. Since we're already essentially subsidizing the uninsured who are forced to use places such as emergency rooms as their primary care provider, reallocating tax dollars toward their preventive care seems to me far more humane and sustainable.
I understand that being forced to purchase health insurance rubs many Americans the wrong way. Should the Supreme Court agree with them, so be it.
But before they toss the baby with the bath water, I hope the justices will consider the benefits that health care reform is already providing to millions of Americans. For example:
- 2.5 million young adults have been allowed to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26.
- All Americans who enrolled in a health care plan after Sept. 23, 2010 now enjoy access to free preventive services, including cancer and cholesterol screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies, flu and pneumonia shots, vaccinations against measles, hepatitis and meningitis, blood pressure checks and nutrition counseling.
- 20.5 million Medicare recipients reviewed their health status at a free Annual Wellness Visit or received other preventive services with no deductible or cost sharing this year.
- 1.8 million Medicare recipients received a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" in the first nine months of 2011.
- 4 million small businesses are now eligible for tax credits of up to 35 percent to help cover their employees. The credit jumps to 50 percent in 2014.
- Your health insurance company is now required to spend at least 80 percent of your premium (85 percent for large employer plans) directly on your care and well-being or rebate the difference to you beginning this summer.
- Americans with pre-existing conditions can now obtain coverage through a pre-existing condition insurance plan.
- Insurance companies can no longer place lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits for policies written after Sept. 23, 2010. Annual dollar limits will be prohibited beginning in 2014.
I hope the individual mandate stands. I want all Americans to have access to health care coverage. Don't you?
But even if it doesn't, by what logic would anyone undo all of the good listed above?
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