Many Republicans in Congress are so afraid of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that they are willing to shut down the government in an effort to defeat the act. So what does this fearsome act do?
The gist of the act is that it sets up some marketplaces (called Health Insurance Exchanges) in which private companies compete with each other to sell health insurance policies. The law has fixed four levels of coverage: Bronze policies cover 60 percent of medical costs, Silver policies cover 70 percent, Gold policies cover 80 percent and Platinum policies cover 90 percent. The private companies compete mainly on price in offering their policies.
The various marketplaces are to open for business Oct. 1. Fourteen states chose to offer their own marketplace and residents of the other states, including Missouri, will use the federal marketplace which can be reached at www.healthcare.gov or 1-800-318-2596.
The law requires that a company must be willing to sell its policies to all eligible buyers. They cannot refuse to sell to certain age groups or to people already sick, and there can be no yearly or lifetime limits on the benefits a company must pay. It is up to the private companies to price their policies so they can make a profit under these conditions.
To help the companies the law requires that all Americans have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014. Because of this companies will be able to sell many more policies than they do now. People who do not obtain health insurance will face fines, beginning at $95 and rising over time and by income level.
People whose incomes are below certain levels will qualify for government help in paying their health insurance premiums. People on Medicare or who already have satisfactory health insurance through their employment will not need to obtain any new coverage.
These are the essentials of the new health care law, and it is difficult to see why Republicans are so afraid of it. The law is really a health insurance law, not a medical care law, and the insurance being sold is to be sold in competitive marketplaces by private health insurance companies.
It is a pity that Republicans are willing to shut down the government in order to obstruct a law that extends health insurance to millions who do not have it and that accomplishes this through private enterprise and free markets.