One Year of Health Care Reform: What Now?

The one-year anniversary of the signing of President Obama’s health reform package brought typical mixed reactions: celebration and praise from the supports of the reforms, and disparaging comments and pessimism from the critics.

State and federal officials sounded off, as did health insurance industry experts and pundits of every stripe. But by and large, the American public is still pretty much baffled by the whole thing. A recent study showed that almost 40% of Americans actually believed the ACA had been repealed, and almost everyone has serious doubts, misconceptions, and more questions than answers.

Most of the questions lately are regarding if the law will last much longer, or if it will indeed be repealed.

In the House, the Republican majority voted to repeal it earlier this year, while the Democratic President and the Democrat-dominated Senate have been fighting hard to keep that from happening. The fact that the Republican Party is looking toward a positive election year for their side in 2012 could bode ill for the Affordable Care Act, is the votes go the right way for them and allow them to carry both the House and the Senate next year.

Should the conservatives fail at outright repeal, the ACA has been challenged several times in federal courtrooms across the nation, and it is thought that the Supreme Court will soon hear at least one of these cases, which contests the federal government’s right to force U.S. citizens to buy health care coverage or pay a penalty.

Polls also show that U.S. voters are intensely divided over the reforms.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who hails the new forms, admits, “That won’t come easily, and that hasn’t come entirely,” during a stop at a local Health Department in his constituency on Thursday. “They got pretty much from most of the media and a lot of speeches — they got the negative. It’s our job to go ahead calmly, sensibly and responsibly (to) see that these measures are put in place in a way that helps people.”

Senator Rockefeller targeted the reform’s critics, saying that repealing the ACA won’t help all of the 45 million people who are without health coverage in America, according to recent estimates. “It doesn’t do them a favor to say, ‘Nope, we’re not going to do this,’ ”

The majority of the high points of the law won’t become effective or mandatory until 2014, which is when the mandate will kick in, forcing anyone who can afford insurance to buy it or pay a penalty, and when those who can’t will be given access to free health care or subsidies to pay for it by the government.


Until then, a number of unanswered questions remain.

How many West Virginians will that affect?

How much will it cost?

State officials themselves aren’t yet sure.

Estimates suggest that by 2015 at least a quarter million state residents could be receiving health insurance wholly or partially paid for by the federal government in addition to the thousands who are already enrolled in the government-sponsored Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare and Medicaid.

“I don’t think that there’s any state in America that stands to gain any more or lose any more by the passage or failure of this bill,” Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller’s peer, Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) disagreed with his sentiments, saying that the federal government footing the bill of millions of uninsured isn’t fiscally possible, and that the reforms will cause more problems than the solve.

“Prior to its passing, the Democrats and the President promised that their law would make healthcare more affordable, decrease the deficit and allow patients to keep their coverage-laudable goals we all want to achieve,” Capito said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, some estimates indicate that 87 million Americans will have to change their coverage, premiums will rise for millions of families and seniors may lose their retiree prescription drug coverage. All told, the healthcare law includes over $500 billion in taxes and $2.6 trillion in new government spending.”

The core issue ends up being will paying billions of dollars to insure the uninsured eventually reduce health care costs by making the population healthier?

Mary Wakefield , Health Resources and Services Administration head, summed up the government’s position: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Should this eventually prove correct, the initial cost-hike could be worth the trouble, which is what the President has said all along.

But if not, this country will have soaring new entitlements without funding, Conservatives argue.

If it isn’t, the country will have a massive new entitlement program with spiraling costs, as Republicans argue.

Even health care reform advocates are not sure. Only time will tell.