Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 11, 2012

Forum: Turn page on health care reform

A poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation confirms that the public has grown tired of the partisan wrangling around the health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Now that a conservative-dominated Supreme Court has ruled the law to be constitutional, nearly 60 percent of those polled would like Congressional opponents of the Act to move on to other issues and give the law an opportunity to work.

But this week Congressional opponents will hold a vote — for the 31st time — to repeal the Act. What will be different about that Tuesday's vote than the previous 30 votes? Sadly, nothing. The debate will be marked by the same partisan rhetoric and same absence of any meaningful alternative being brought forward by opponents of the Act.

While the Affordable Care Act is not perfect — and policy makers will likely be tweaking implementation for years — it does provide a powerful and proven framework from which to address the leading barriers to access and affordability of care.

Originally designed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation as a market-based alternative to a single-payer system like we find in Canada, the Affordable Care Act model emphasizes personal responsibility and the use of tax incentives and penalties to change personal behavior.

Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was the first to implement this model with great success. In his state, more than 98 percent of citizens now have health insurance and the law maintains high public support. There is good reason Congress based the Act on the Massachusetts model.

What would a repeal of the Act mean to Michigan consumers? Repeal means insurance companies can go back to denying children the care they need due to pre-existing conditions. Repeal means that more than 23,000 Michigan seniors who have already saved over $17.6 million on name-brand prescription drugs would be back on the hook for the full cost of their prescriptions. Repeal also means 94,000 young adults in Michigan would lose health care coverage because of a provision in the law that allows people under age 26 to remain on their parents' health plan.

Approximately 7,000 small businesses in the state would also lose tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees. Consumers would lose out on over $13 million in projected rebates from overcharges by insurance carriers.

All of that would be gone.

The Affordable Care Act model was designed by conservatives, first implemented by Romney, and has now been upheld by a conservative high court. Isn't it time for opponents to turn the page, end the partisan rancor and work with us to make sure the Act truly benefits health care consumers?

About the author: Don Hazaert is the director of Michigan Consumers for Health care, an advocacy group that provides voice to the health care consumer. The coalition includes: AARP, the American Cancer Society, Area Agencies on Aging, the Arthritis Foundation, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, the Michigan County Health Plan Association, the Susan G Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, Spectrum Health/ Strong Beginnings and the Traverse Health Clinic among other groups.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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