Obama 2012 defends, touts health care reform

As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.

Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.

Christine Pelosi @ OFA HQ 3-19-12Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.

By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”

Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.

Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.

He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”

Lots more, after the jump…

Republicans are arguing that health care premiums have continued to rise, a trend at odds with the law’s stated goal of making health care affordable and accessible for all Americans. They’re also characterizing it as a budget-buster, although a recent Congressional Budget Office report says the law’s insurance coverage provisions “will have a net cost of just under $1.1 trillion over the 2012–2021 period — about $50 billion less than the agencies’ March 2011 estimate for that 10-year period.” Also from that report:

Compared with prior law, the ACA is now estimated by CBO and JCT to reduce the number of nonelderly people without health insurance coverage by 30 million to 33 million in 2016 and subsequent years, leaving 26 million to 27 million nonelderly residents uninsured in those years (see Table 3, at the end of this report). The share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance is projected to rise from 82 percent in 2012 to 93 percent by 2022. According to the current estimates, from 2016 on, between 20 million and 23 million people will receive coverage through the new insurance exchanges, and 16 million to 17 million people will be enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. Also, 3 million to 5 million fewer people will have coverage through an employer compared with the number under prior law.

Another CBO report notes fewer people will get their health insurance from their employers in years to come under the new law, though it cautions that “it is doubtful that any survey conducted today could provide very accurate predictions of employers’ future decisions.”

“This analysis exposes more of the real costs of the President’s unconstitutional, deeply-flawed health spending law,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, said Thursday. “According to CBO, the costs to taxpayers may be an astonishing $2.13 trillion through 2022 alone. While President Obama promised that ‘If you like what you have, you can keep it,’ CBO found that as many as 20 million could lose their employer-sponsored health benefits and 49 million more Americans could become dependent on government-sponsored health care. This law keeps getting worse and worse; it needs to be repealed.”

At the campaign headquarters Monday, Sheila Mack, 60, of Oakland, said she had to cut back on food in order to afford her COBRA health insurance continuation after she lost her Oakland Unified School District job – until the reform law dropped her monthly COBRA cost by a third.

Jan Flemons, 69, of Oakland, said her grandson was able to stay on her daughter’s health insurance while he searched for a job after graduating from college, and her aunt can now better afford the prescription she needs following knee-replacement surgery.

Peggy Moore, Obama for America’s California political director, exhorted her people to take to the phones. “They call it Obamacare – but this is our care.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W.

    It’s amazing that the focus of opposition to the health care bill is the mandate. I’ve met very few people in my life who wanted to be without health insurance. That includes one of the plaintiffs in the case before the Supremes. She’s now out of work, ill and without means to pay for health care. But the hospitals and, in turn, those who pay health insurance premiums, will pay for her care instead. Oops! The problem has been millions of people who do want insurance and can’t get it, because they don’t have access to the “guaranteed issue,” taxpayer subsidized coverage of employer-sponsored health insurance. Guess people just don’t like being told what to do, even if what they are being told to do or get is something they either have already or wish they had but can’t get.