A new, better day is dawning
In about a month, small businesses in Vermont and Vermonters who purchase their own health insurance will begin to enroll in insurance plans offered on Vermont Health Connect (www.vermonthealthconnect.gov).
This new and affordable way for many Vermonters to purchase insurance is the key provision of the Affordable Care Act. I was proud to be involved in the passage of this law when I worked as the health policy adviser for Sen. Bernie Sanders. The upcoming start of Vermont Health Connect causes me to reflect on what we enacted.
To say that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as some prefer to call it, has gotten a bad rap would be an understatement. Before its major components have even begun, it has been declared a disaster by opponents. Yet those parts of it that have been implemented are quite popular. These include:
Insurance companies can no longer cancel your coverage if you get sick.
Allowing continued coverage of young people (up to 26 years old) on their parents’ insurance.
Gradual closing of the infamous “doughnut hole” in the Medicare Part D drug program.
Free preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
Restricting insurance company administrative costs and profits to 20 percent of premiums paid with rebates to subscribers if this is exceeded.
And starting with the new year in 2014, and certain to be popular:
Insurance companies will not be able to deny you coverage or care for pre-existing conditions.
There will be no lifetime limit on what insurance companies will pay for care, thus reducing the threat of having to declare bankruptcy because of medical expenses.
Now, beginning Oct. 1, many Vermonters will be able to go online or meet with trained “navigators” to easily compare insurance plans and receive federal and state tax credits and subsidies to enroll in one of a variety of plans that best meet their health care needs and financial ability.
Change is never easy for some, and given this new approach, it is natural that some would be skeptical. But, consider this quote:
“We cannot stand idly by now, as the nation is urged to embark on an ill-conceived adventure in government medicine, the end of which no one can see, and from which the patient is certain to be the ultimate sufferer.”
Yet another attack on Obamacare? No, this appeared in remarks made by Representative Hall of Missouri in the Congressional Record in 1965 after the passage of Medicare, now the most popular health insurance program in America.
Similarly, I believe that, in the future, we will look back in wonder at the opposition to the expansion of health security that occurred in 2014.
David A.V. Reynolds is deputy director of health reform in the Vermont Agency of Administration.