ACA is Still the Law of the Land

David R. Jones | 11/2/2017, midnight
Legend has it that Mark Twain had this to say about an obituary mistakenly published in a major newspaper: “The ...
David R. Jones Contributed

Legend has it that Mark Twain had this to say about an obituary mistakenly published in a major newspaper: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

The same can be said of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as “Obamacare.” Despite five failed attempts to repeal and replace it, just this year, and a concerted propaganda campaign by the Trump Administration to undermine it, the ACA is very much alive. And, I might add, still the law of the land.

In fact, yesterday (November 1) marked the beginning of this year’s “Open Enrollment Period” for uninsured New Yorkers applying for health insurance in 2018. More on that later.

Back when he was a candidate, Donald Trump promised with great fanfare that if elected he would make healthcare “far less expensive and far better” than the current system. It’s hard to believe that someone who has put so much time and energy since then into trying to undermine the law, while investing so little time in trying to understand its complexities, is legitimately interested in producing something better.

Not surprisingly, federal spending on advertising to inform the public about open enrollment periods has been slashed by 95 percent. Scarcely a day goes by without the President attacking the law rhetorically or actively taking steps to undermine it.

So let’s end the charade. The President and Republican hardliners are not the least bit interested in improving our healthcare system. Period.

Rather, this is about their singular obsession with obliterating the signature policy achievement of former President Barack Obama. They also want to deliver a huge tax cut to the wealthy. Eliminating government subsidies under the ACA, not only offsets the cost of their tax cut, but it helps achieve that.

Meanwhile, our President continues to create chaos in the insurance market. His latest effort to circumvent the ACA was announced earlier this month - a dubious proposal to allow people to buy inexpensive health coverage of disputable quality through “association plans.” Typically these plans allow professional groups to offer cheap coverage with sky-high deductibles, and hide within the fine print discriminatory policies underwritten into the plan that deny coverage for things like “pre-existing conditions” and other standards of care established under the ACA.

New York State of Health Marketplace

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that all five Republican bills would end in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans. Think that’s a coincidence? It speaks to the real intent behind the right’s approach to health care: Let it die.

Contrast that with New York’s approach. Four million New Yorkers have enrolled in health insurance through the New York State of Health, the state’s insurance shopping website, or marketplace, where New Yorkers can shop coverage options, find out if they are eligible for financial aid, and get enrollment help.

New York’s uninsured rate is the lowest it’s been in decades. High uninsured rates are a significant driver of disparities in health outcomes. In 2013 when New York’s marketplace first opened, the uninsured rate for blacks in New York was 12 percent. Four years later, the uninsured rate for blacks is nearly half that at 6.8 percent.