As soon as Republicans knew they had won a majority of House seats in the midterm elections, GOP leaders vowed to repeal health care reform. Can they do this? And should they?
Frankly, chances that the health care reform bill could be repealed completely are remote, especially since such repeal would have to override President Obama’s veto, and the Senate still has a Democratic majority.
House Republicans say they have some tricks up their sleeves, such as refusing to provide funds in the budget to implement health care reform. However, provisions of the law that will expand Medicaid and help subsidize private insurance won’t kick in until 2014. Until then, there’s not much the House can do to the budget to stop health care reform from going forward, short of defunding the entire Health and Human Services department.
Another “trick” might be to dismantle the bill piece by piece. One provision that many people want to remove is the individual mandate, which will require most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty. This provision also kicks in in 2014, and it’s one that Baby Boomers in particular will want to fight to keep.
Here’s why: Beginning in 2014, private insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to insure someone because of a pre-existing condition. But without an individual mandate, there will be no incentive for younger and healthier people to purchase health insurance until the time comes when they need it. This means those left in the insurance “risk pool” will be older, and that drives up the cost of insurance.
By the time we reach 50, nearly all of us have “pre-existing conditions.” Some of our conditions are common, and some are not – mesothelioma, for example, is rarely diagnosed in patients younger than 50. And without Medicare or other good insurance, mesothelioma treatment would be financially devastating.
But without the individual mandate requiring that healthier people share in the cost of insuring all of us, the health insurance premium bills for people aged 50 to 65 will be ruinous. We can scrap health care reform entirely, of course, but keep in mind that if you lose your insurance before you reach Medicare age you may not be able to purchase insurance at all, at any price, if you have a pre-existing condition.
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