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Obamacare isn’t end of the world

DelMarVa Observer
July 7, 2012

Op-Ed By Michael Pretl

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court — under the leadership of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts — has upheld as constitutional the 2010 federal healthcare reform initiative, perhaps all Americans can focus on understanding and implementing its provisions.

First, to address some misconceptions:

» The “tax” which Roberts found would sustain congressional power to mandate coverage is not a tax we all will pay. Only those who can afford to purchase coverage and refuse to do so (“free riders”) will be assessed an equivalent amount, as a penalty.

» Individuals unable to afford the premium will either qualify for Medicaid (or Medicare, if over 65), or else will have their private insurance premiums subsidized by the government.

Many of the law’s features which everyone seems to like have been implemented already, including these:

» You may no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or have your coverage cancelled.

» Lifetime limits and annual limits on your health coverage are now illegal.

» Your adult children may be covered under your policy until age 26.

» We seniors receive a 50 percent discount on drug costs which we must pay.

» Coverage is mandatory for your preventive medical services, including mammograms, colonoscopies and vaccinations. More than 100 million of us have already received these covered services.

» Any premium increases must be explained and can be rolled back if found unjustified.

Owners of small businesses are entitled to benefits which many are not aware of, including subsidies or tax credits covering 35 percent of the cost of new coverage for their employees. Also, in progressive states such as Maryland, new insurance exchanges are already reducing group insurance costs.

Women especially will benefit from additional provisions effective in 2014:

» Women can no longer be charged higher premiums than men nor dropped for pregnancy.

» Many low-income single parents will soon be able to qualify for Medicaid, for themselves and their children.

Even before Obamacare, nearly 45 percent of us had our coverage paid for by taxpayer sources — Medicare, Medicaid, military and other government employees.

The new law will add to the rolls many of the currently uninsured — for whose care we all now pay indirectly — reducing costs without substantially increasing our tax burden or interposing the government between you and your doctor.

Michael Pretl is an attorney living in Riverton, who for 13 years has been an officer of Maryland Health Care for All and serves also as general counsel to the American Urological Association. Email him at mikepretl@aol.com.

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