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What would a repeal of health reform mean to you?

Maryalene LaPonsie | January 20, 2011

Health reform seems to be a political hot potato that simply won't go away. After a passionate public debate that dominated the 2008 presidential election, the Obama Administration seemed to do the impossible when it ushered the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law in March 2010. However, that was not the end of the debate on health reform.

The 2010 midterm elections saw a wave of voter discontent - and more passionate debate on health reform - as incumbents were shown the door and a new generation of Congressmen and women were elected. Now, the GOP-led Congress has voted to repeal the PPACA and all its provisions.

While the repeal is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and would most certainly be vetoed by President Barack Obama, conservative Congress members are looking to 2012. Another GOP sweep of elections could mean that health reform is repealed before its major provision-- the individual health insurance mandate-- is enacted in 2014. However if health reform is repealed, it would mean more than just the end of mandatory medical coverage.

Access to care for those with pre-existing conditions

The group that stands to lose the most if health reform is repealed are those with pre-existing conditions. Individuals with chronic health conditions and without access to group insurance have long found it nearly impossible to obtain medical coverage on the private health insurance market. Health reform provided several options for those with pre-existing conditions, including these three:

  1. States were required to launch high-risk pools in 2010 to provide coverage to those who are unable to find health insurance elsewhere.
  2. As of September, health insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. In 2014, that protection will be extended to adults as well.
  3. Young adults up to age 26 can be added to their parent's group insurance policy as a dependent. Group insurance plans are prohibited from denying coverage or denying benefits, in most cases, for pre-exisiting conditions.

If repealed, the loss of health reform will mark the end of these options for those most in need of health insurance but most likely to be unable to obtain it.

Repeal could impact group insurance options through employers

Currently, health insurance benefits are a valuable but completely voluntary perk that businesses offer to workers. Come 2014, large businesses will be required to provide employees with medical coverage as a result of health reform.

While small businesses are not subject to the benefits mandate, they are being encouraged to offer health care to their employees. Federal tax credits were announced last year to offset small business health insurance costs. In addition, in 2014, small businesses will have access to a Health Insurance Exchange designed to reduce their costs, which currently run 18 percent more than those for large firms.

Early retirees could also lose out on their health insurance if health reform is repealed. The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) was rolled out in June 2010 to subsidize business costs for health insurance for early retirees. With many businesses reportedly dropping health benefits for these individuals, the ERRP is intended to encourage businesses to maintain their medical coverage and bridge the gap between when someone retires and when they become eligible for Medicare health insurance.

While the Congressional repeal of health reform may be largely symbolic at this point, the 2010 elections have proven that change is always just two years away. With hope, cooler minds will prevail and realize that many health reform provisions offer much-needed assistance to American businesses and individuals. In the end, throwing out the baby with the bath water is never a good idea.

Tags : health care reform, pre existing conditions, business health insurance

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