The Republicans have tried to sabotage health care reform since it was introduced—disrupting town hall meetings, spreading lies about the legislation (remember death panels?) and now trying to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. But Republicans have completely failed at defeating a law that extends health coverage to millions of Americans who are uninsured.
Since they can’t win repeal, Republicans have resorted to trying to dismantle the law piece by piece. They’ve held symbolic repeal votes and launched lawsuits in 28 different states with Republican governors or attorney generals. The lawsuits focus on ruling small pieces unconstitutional, like the individual mandate, in order to take down the entire law.
The lawsuits won’t reverse the health care reform law all at once, but they do set the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court, and it keeps Republicans in the spotlight. Just this week, a federal judge in Florida ruled the entire federal health care reform law void on the basis that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.
Why are Republicans throwing such a fit over a law that allows kids with asthma or diabetes to get health care? Why oppose a law that prevents terminally ill cancer patients from being kicked off their insurance? Why dismantle reform that puts money in the pockets of seniors for their prescription drugs? Why repeal a move to make sure no one has to mortgage their home or file bankruptcy if they get sick or injured?
Why fight a law that lowers the cost of health care? Oh wait a minute….health insurance companies don’t really like that part of it. A newly released study by the Health and Human Services Agency finds that the federal health care reform will drive down the cost of premiums. By just 2014 families could save as much as $2300 on premiums because of health care reform, and low-income families could save $9900. A key driver of cost savings in the state-based Exchanges where people can shop for insurance and get federal subsidies to pay for coverage.
Health insurance companies have made out like bandits under the pre-reform system. Last year, the profits of the five largest health insurers saw their profits increase by 56 percent. One of those big five companies, WellPoint, is the parent of Anthem Blue Cross, which tried to jack up premiums for customers by 39 percent in California last year, though they backed off the increase after errors were found in their calculations. So it’s not surprising that they and their Republican allies would fight to repeal a law that would curtail insurer ability to raise rates and double their profits in a year.
Despite attempts by Republicans to repeal the federal law, California is racing ahead to implement health care reform, and in many cases improve it. We were the first state in the nation to set up a Health Benefits Exchange that could be a model for other states. And millions of Californians have already reaped the benefits of reform—such as keeping their 19-26 year old kids on their coverage or knowing that their child won’t be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
As in the 2010 elections, California is beating back the red tide of Republican rollbacks and is forging ahead with critical reforms to our health care system.