Area residents mull impact of new health care reform

By Julia Green
To supporters, it’s the start of a sweeping overhaul, and the most promising legislation to come out of Washington in decades. To others, it’s a Band-Aid at best; a political strong-arm and an unaffordable expense at worst.
Major news networks broke into primetime programming Sunday night to make the announcement: that Congress had passed an historic vote, as the House of Representatives passed the original Senate reform bill, H.R. 3590, by a vote of 219-212. The $940 billion plan is expected to extend coverage to approximately 32 million Americans and to cut down abuse by insurance companies.
Among elements that will take place sooner than others: the legislation ensures that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, establishes a new high-risk insurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions, and states that young adults will be able to say on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26.
In addition, Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine, larger employers will be required to provide coverage or risk financial penalties, and total out-of-pocket expenses for individuals will be capped. In addition, insurance providers will be forbidden to deny coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions.
The vote on health care may have ended Sunday night, but the debate surrounding the issue is far from over. Not a single Republican voted for the bill, and Senate Republicans said they would use every bureaucratic tactic at their disposal to derail the legislation; however, it was determined Monday that the final element of the package could advance under fast-track budget rules known as reconciliation, that would protect it from a Republican filibuster. Debate in the Senate on the bill was scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon.
Rep. Scott Murphy, who represents voters in the 20th Congressional District, voted in favor of the measure.
“Today our nation took a critical step forward by passing the ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” he said in a statement Sunday. “The president’s health care reform bill will change our fundamentally flawed health care system, expanding care to millions of Americans and slowing the out of control growth in costs that is bankrupting our families and small businesses.”
Murphy went on to say that the legislation “takes health care decisions out of the hands of insurance companies and places them back in the hands of doctors and patients by banning health insurance companies from dropping your coverage when you get sick and by ending lifetime caps on coverage.”
Murphy voted against the original House health care bill in November, because he said he was not satisfied with its plan to address broken incentives and get money out of the system, but he said that he felt it did a good job increasing coverage and addressing insurance reform. He was one of only five congressmen from New York State to vote against the bill, H.R. 3962, also known as the “Affordable Health Care for America Act.”
“Health care reform is not just an issue of physical health; it’s an issue of fiscal health,” he said. “The bill is truly fiscally conservative and is the largest deficit reduction measure passed in more than a decade.”
Murphy estimated that with the legislation, the deficit will be reduced by $143 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion over the following decade.
The effects of the bill in Murphy’s district, which includes Delaware County, will improve coverage for 459,000 residents who already have health insurance as well as extend coverage to more than 20,000 uninsured residents. It is also expected to guarantee that 8,600 residents with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain medical coverage, and allow 51,000 young adults to gain coverage through their parents’ insurance plans.
The bill is also expected to improve Medicare for 117,000 beneficiaries, protect more than 1,000 families from bankruptcy due to health care expenses, and reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $26 million annually.