President Obama took time on Tuesday to speak about the Affordable Care Act and the New Patients’ Bill of Rights, marking the 90th day since its passage. Obama spoke of the law’s success, detailing its positive effects while addressing common fears and questions.
Admitting that full implementation of the law would take years, Obama said many of its effects can already be seen. He described new opportunities for small business owners, and retirees too young to qualify for Medicare.
Speaking specifically about the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, Obama stated that some seniors “began receiving a $250 check to help them afford their medicine.” He estimated that as many as 4 million seniors would most likely receive this help by the end of the year, stating that the gap would be completely closed by 2020.
I spoke with my mother, Kathleen Moore – a retired school teacher from Mississippi, and a Medicare recipient – and she is skeptical. For her and many others, seeing is believing. Still, she’s hopeful for the future, telling me, “even if I don’t see the benefits, perhaps you will.” After all, 2020 is a long time to wait for many recipients of Medicare, especially those over the age of 70.
In an effort to confront fears, President Obama said that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury were going to issue regulations putting an end to “some of the worst practices in the insurance industry.” Such practices include the exclusion of coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, denying coverage to those who make an unintentional mistake on their application, and dropping coverage for those who are sick. Regulations would also extend to putting an end to yearly and lifetime limits on coverage.
Much of the public fear and negative response to the bill and subsequent law was related to changes that may take place immediately in the form of premium increases.
Soon after the law was signed into place, many began receiving letters from their insurance companies detailing changes, if any, that would take effect in response to the new law. Supporters and non-supporters alike held their breath, waiting to see what would happen. In my case, the anticipation was largely anticlimactic. My own letter came a month after the bill became law, and, as I scanned the pages, the changes were largely positive ones, though not ones that really impacted me. The lifetime limit had been dropped, and coverage is now extended to children of those insured until the age of 26, detailing who exactly would be covered and/or excluded.
Not everyone was so fortunate; others received news of arbitrary premium increases. In his speech, Obama cited an attempt by Anthem Blue Cross to raise rates in California, an increase of 39 percent in some cases. In this instance, the President said his administration questioned the increase and it was withdrawn. In other instances, President Obama reported that states like Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania were investigating premium increases.
There are indeed many outcomes and effects of the Affordable Care Act, many beneficial to consumers. As with most laws, success will ultimately be dependent on successful implementation. It is hard to predict what long term effects the law will have, but President Obama is optimistic, encouraging others to be optimistic as well.
Press Release, “Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act and the New Patients’ Bill of Rights,” The White House
Moore, Kathleen. Personal Interview, 22 June 2010.