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How Conservative Attacks on Health Care Reform Will Affect You

Attempts to Repeal Affordable Care Act Have Serious Consequences

The Affordable Care Act provides Americans economic and health security with protections against exorbitant premium hikes, better health benefits, and slower growth in health care costs. Conservatives in the Congress are intent on taking these benefits away.

Conservatives are starting to implement their onslaught to repeal the Affordable Care Act this week as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives. They have scheduled a vote on January 12. If conservatives have their way and repeal the Affordable Care Act, we will go back to a health care system that failed millions of Americans: one with skyrocketing costs bankrupting families and our budget, fewer people with access to quality care, and more people at the mercy of the health insurance industry.

Increasing premiums for millions of Americans. Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, individuals and families were faced with skyrocketing premiums. Premiums for individuals increased 120 percent and family premiums increased 130 percent from 1999 to 2009. The Affordable Care Act controls these costs. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office or CBO looked at the law’s effect on premiums in 2016 and estimated that the health reform law would cut premiums for millions of Americans. These premiums cuts would be more substantial for those in the individual market, most of whom will receive subsidies to help cover the cost. According to the CBO, those receiving help in the individual market would see their premiums reduced by 56 percent to 59 percent less than they would pay without the law, while also enjoy better coverage than what they currently receive. Repealing the law means going back to a status quo of skyrocketing premiums that made health insurance out of reach and unaffordable for American families.

Costing 400,000 jobs annually. The Affordable Care Act helps create as many as 400,000 jobs annually over the next decade by lowering costs and helping promote a healthier workforce. It includes cost-containment measures to slow the rate of growth of health care spending. Small businesses in particular are helped through exchanges that allow them to pool resources to lower costs as well as tax credits to make it more affordable to offer their employees health coverage. These cost-reduction provisions free up money that otherwise would be spent on health care and allow companies to spend it hiring more workers. In addition, a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. Those benefits disappear, as well as the jobs created along with it, if the law is repealed.

Increasing costs for seniors by as much as $1,500 in 2011. The Affordable Care Act eliminates the “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program by 2020. Seniors with high prescription drug expenses before health reform had to pay full price for their prescription drugs—without any help from their drug plan—once their prescription drug spending reached a pre-defined limit. People who hit this limit in 2011 will get a 50 percent discount on their name-brand prescription drugs, saving some Medicare enrollees as much as $1,500 in out-of-pocket drug costs. Those savings will not be realized if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Hurting communities of color. Communities of color are more likely to be uninsured, and they suffer from higher rates of chronic illness than the rest of the population. The Affordable Care Act addresses these inequities by expanding health insurance coverage and improving access to primary care, including preventive services. These provisions will be eliminated if conservatives have their way and repeal the health reform law.

Increasing costs and deficits. The Affordable Care Act creates tools to control the growth in health costs while improving quality of care. Effective implementation can reduce administrative costs for small businesses and individuals, promote greater use of preventive care, and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, saving as much as $2 trillion in total health spending over the next decade. In addition, the CBO estimated the law will reduce the federal budget deficit by $143 billion over the first 10 years and more than $1.2 trillion over the next two decades. Repealing the new law stymies these much-needed efforts and reverts to the unsustainable status quo of skyrocketing costs that were bankrupting our country. Make no mistake: The Affordable Care Act provides Americans economic and health security with protections against exorbitant premium hikes, better health benefits, and slower growth in health care costs. Conservatives in Congress are intent on taking these benefits away and going back to a health system that was failing America. And, to top it off, they’d keep their benefits, while taking away ours.

Americans deserve better. We need the Affordable Care Act.

By: Tony Carrk, Center For American Progress. Note: Originally Published January 5, 2011 prior to US House Vote on Repeal.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judge Vinson’s Tea Party Manifesto

Mark Hall, Fred and Elizabeth Turnage Professor of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law

On first read, the most striking aspect of Judge Vinson’s ruling today is not its remedy — striking the Affordable Care Act in its entirety — but the impression one gets that the opinion was written in part as a Tea Party Manifesto.  At least half of the relevant part of the opinion is devoted to discussing what Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and other Founding Fathers would have thought about the individual mandate, including the following remarkably telling passage (p. 42):

It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the same Founders wrote a Constitution that allowed the federal government to take property from unwilling sellers and passive owners, when needed to construct highways, bridges and canals.  But Judge Vinson dismissed those and other examples with the briefest of parenthetical asides:  “(all of [these] are obviously distinguishable)” (p. 39).    Instead, he twice cites and quotes the lower court opinion in Schechter Poultry (pp. 53, 55), which struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, at the height of the Great Depression and the pinnacle of Lochner jurisprudence.

Still, it’s fair enough to conclude, absent controlling precedent, that being uninsured might not constitute interstate commerce.   What’s harder to swallow is the judge’s rejection of the Necessary and Proper Clause.  In refusing to sever the individual mandate, he not only concedes the mandate “is indisputably necessary to the Act’s insurance market reforms, which are, in turn, indisputably necessary to . . . what Congress was ultimately seeking to accomplish,” he astonishingly devotes about ten pages (63-74) to hammering home the mandate’s necessity, explaining, for instance, that:

this Act has been analogized to a finely crafted watch . . . . It has approximately 450 separate pieces, but one essential piece (the individual mandate) is defective and must be removed. It cannot function as originally designed. There are simply too many moving parts in the Act and too many provisions dependent (directly and indirectly) on the individual mandate and other health insurance provisions — which, as noted, were the chief engines that drove the entire legislative effort — for me to try and dissect out the proper from the improper

So if the mandate is so clearly necessary, why is it not “proper.”  The answer, as in Virginia’s Judge Hudson’s opinion, is a virtual tautology:  because the Commerce Clause does not permit it.  Here are critical excerpts:

the Clause is not an independent source of federal power (p. 58) . . . Ultimately, the Necessary and Proper Clause vests Congress with the power and authority to exercise means which may not in and of themselves fall within an enumerated power, to accomplish ends that must be within an enumerated power. (p. 60)

In light of [United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters], the “end” of regulating the health care insurance industry (including preventing insurers from excluding or charging higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions) is clearly “legitimate” and “within the scope of the constitution.” But, the means used to serve that end must be “appropriate,” “plainly adapted,” and not “prohibited” or inconsistent “with the letter and spirit of the constitution.” . . . The Necessary and Proper Clause cannot be utilized to “pass laws for the accomplishment of objects” that are not within Congress’ enumerated powers.  (p. 62)

The defendants have asserted again and again that the individual mandate is absolutely “necessary” and “essential” for the Act to operate as it was intended by Congress. I accept that it is.   Nevertheless, the individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers. By definition, it cannot be “proper.”  (p. 63)

My full rebuttal is here, but in brief: none of this is consistent with Comstock, which allows the federal government to commit mentally ill former prisoners to civil treatment, despite the clear absence of any general federal civil commitment power.  And this is inconsistent with Lopez and with Justice Scalia’s concurrence in Raich, which note that regulation, otherwise forbidden, of local noneconomic activities, can be justified when this is “an essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated.”  Thus, we still await a convincing explanation of why rejecting the “necessary and proper” defense is consistent with recent Supreme Court opinions, authored or joined by most of the conservative justices.

By: Professor Mark Hall, Health Reform Watch, January 31, 2011

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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