Lorie Schaefer: Health care law is like other great American ideals

A few years ago, while watching Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: American’s Best Idea” on PBS, I was struck not only by the beauty of our parks, but by the vision of those who created the first one, Yellowstone, in 1872.

At the time, most Americans couldn’t imagine that these natural treasures might be accessible to everyone or that they would come to symbolize our democracy.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also called Obamacare or the ACA — does something similar.

It makes health care both accessible and affordable for nearly everyone. Very (small d) democratic.

Whether you realize it or not, the ACA is already working for most of us, those already covered by health insurance.

Before the ACA, insurance companies could deny coverage to the half of us with pre-existing medical conditions. An illness such as asthma, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease or diabetes could render us uninsurable.

Today, insurance companies can’t deny coverage or increase premiums because of our health status, claims history or gender.

The ACA also abolishes lifetime limits and provides screenings and preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, without co-pays.

Furthermore, young people can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26. All that’s great news for folks with insurance.

Soon, the next phase of the ACA will help the most vulnerable, the one in 10 Americans not currently covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

Beginning Tuesday, Nevada’s insurance exchange will allow Nevadans to compare and purchase private insurance that meets their needs and budget at nevadahealthlink.com.

Consumers might be pleasantly surprised. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of those without coverage will find basic plans for $100 per month or less.

And over 80 percent of uninsured young adults will qualify for either federal subsidies or Medicaid.

Families making less than four times the poverty level (about $94,000 for a family of four) could see as much as a 60 percent reduction in the cost of health insurance thanks to tax credits and up-front assistance. In fact, most middle-class Americans will save on health care costs via those credits.

While the debate may rage on, the ACA is the law of the land.

It was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the twice-elected president and upheld in numerous court challenges.

Congress has tried and failed to repeal it 41 times.

It’s hard for me to imagine America without our national parks. It’s hard to imagine America without Social Security or Medicare.

In less than a generation, I predict it will be just as hard to imagine America without the Affordable Care Act.

Then we’ll wonder why we were so afraid.

Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.


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