At Last, Health Care Relief is Ours

How many of you earn that amount in a year?
Not I, says the teacher. Nor I, says the letter carrier. Nor I, says the clerk at the corner store. Certainly not I, says the senior citizen living on Social Security.
$88,200. That’s 1,700 bucks a week in your paycheck. If yours is a family of four, and you make less than that, some relief is here, at last.

It comes in the form of the sweeping health care reform signed into law by our president last month.
It is the biggest and best legislation to help America’s middle class since the introduction of Medicare in 1965. If you and your family are members of the middle class or the working poor, you should be celebrating this amazing piece of legislation. It carries the promise to make life better for you, for your children, for your grandparents- and for the future of this country.
I wrote a similar analysis in our weekly newspaper the week it became the law of the land, and there came the usual negative reactions. I was “delusional,” one person said. A “majority” of Americans oppose it, wrote another. A close friend told me that I suffer from an “Obama addiction,” and teasingly suggested that I rush to “ the nearest Tea Party detox center” for help.
All clever talking points, those. Except this: one week after it became law, the polls showed that in fact a majority of Americans- 50% to 47%- support the new law. And that margin will certainly increase as the law is fully implemented.
Now that the opponent’s distortions and untruths have been defeated by Congressional vote, individual Americans can learn what this new law will do, and just how they will gain from it. Here are a few of the immediate benefits:
• A reduction in the cost of health care for families and small businesses.
• Adults uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary high-risk pool.
• Senior Medicare recipients will receive a $250 rebate to help cover any gap in prescription drug coverage; next year, the law institutes a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs in the “donut hole.”
• New private health insurance plans will be required to provide free preventive care, with no co-payments and no deductibles for preventive services. And next January, Medicare will do the same.
• Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage; that heinous insurance company practice is now against the law. Now no insurance company can deny coverage to a child based on his or her health.
• Young people may remain on their parents’ insurance policy until their 26th birthday.
• Insurance companies cannot drop people from coverage when they get sick, and they may no longer impose lifetime caps on coverage; restrictive annual limits on coverage also will be banned.
Among other positive benefits: funding for community health centers will double by the year 2014; the number of primary care providers - doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants - will increase; and discrimination based on salary is now outlawed.
In short, 32 million more Americans- ourselves, our neighbors!- now will have insurance to protect against the ravages of sickness and poor health.
Reasonable people can disagree about parts of the new law, but the Republican attacks were based on political distortions, even outright lies. To their discredit, Republicans sat out the debate, and never offered their own provisions that might have crafted changes to suit their own agenda.
The GOP chose instead to be the “Party of No,” their cry of Armageddon based solely on their lust for a political win over Barack Obama. As one conservative analyst wrote, they hoped for a Waterloo moment for the Democrats, but instead lost all, sort of their own Waterloo.
The opponents say they speak “for the American People,” but their rhetoric is based on that simple falsehood. In the election just 16 months ago between McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden, 70 million American people voted voted for President Obama, while less than 60 million voted for McCain. Now who speaks for “the American People?”
To his credit, during the campaign Barack Obama made public his political agenda, and he pledged to deliver health care reform. When they voted, the American people said yes, that’s what they wanted.
So pay no attention to the overheated rhetoric of the opponents. They had the controls of the country for eight years, and they are embittered by their loss of power.
Barack Obama delivered on his promise on health care reform, and the country is all the better for it.