Health care reform, one year later

This week marks the anniversary of the signing of the health care reform legislation. And the public remains as divided as ever about the law.

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from January, 39 percent of respondents said the law was a good idea, while another 39 percent described it as a bad idea. The Journal points out that Republicans hope that court challenges, along with unintended consequences from the law, will help tamp down Americans’ support of the Affordable Care Act.

Many Americans, though, have been helped by health reform. The Associated Press cites as an example a family who was able to insure their daughter who has a health condition, with reform allowing children to be on their parents’ medical plan until age 26.

But the law is not a clear win for other groups, the AP points out. Some small businesses are using new tax credits to offer health insurance for their workers, but others have found the tax math doesn’t work for them. Similarly, not many people have joined the high-risk pools set up for people who have pre-existing health conditions. Yet seniors praise the new financial help they receive in the ‘’doughnut
hole’’ – the coverage gap in their prescription spending under Medicare’s ‘’Part D’’ drug benefit.

Meanwhile, the flexibility that the Obama administration has shown to some requirements under the law have raised questions by reform opponents, the New York Times reports. Many employers – including Norcross-based Waffle House — and labor unions have received ‘’waivers’’ from the federal mandate to provide at least $750,000 in coverage to each person in their health plans this year. Republicans counter that the law must be fundamentally flawed to have granted more than 1,000 such exceptions.

Other waivers are being sought by states over the requirement that health insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical care. Georgia last week became one of the handful of states seeking waivers for individual health insurance policies from the 80 percent requirement.

The administration says the waivers show a practical, flexible manner of carrying out the reform law.

In the state Legislature, though, a bill that would allow Georgia to set up a health insurance exchange as envisioned by the reform law was bottled up last week after protests from Tea Party groups. Gov. Nathan Deal will now appoint an advisory panel to study an insurance exchange, where individuals and small businesses would seek affordable coverage. The Associated Press points out
that an exchange bill was also introduced in 2007 – by Republicans.

Where do Georgians stand on reform? A poll of 450 registered voters found that only one in three want lawmakers to repeal the law, Georgia Health News reported last week. This comes despite strong opposition to the new law among the state’s political leadership, and Georgia’s lawsuit with other states to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

While 31 percent want the law repealed, an additional 29 percent want lawmakers to throw out parts of the Affordable Care Act. The telephone poll also found 14 percent want lawmakers to expand the reform law and 18 percent want to preserve it as written.