Saturday, July 26, 2014
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Can't abandon health reform

Two new reports provide striking evidence that President Obama’s health-care overhaul will keep countless Americans healthier, cut the federal deficit, and even save millions of lives — though how many will depend on whether Republican-run states opt for good medicine over partisan politics.

Can’t abandon health reform

Budget office director Douglas Elmendorf
Budget office director Douglas Elmendorf MANUEL BALCE CENETA / Associated Press, file

Two new reports provide striking evidence that President Obama’s health-care overhaul will keep countless Americans healthier, cut the federal deficit, and even save millions of lives — though how many will depend on whether Republican-run states opt for good medicine over partisan politics.

The Affordable Care Act faces continued opposition from presidential candidate Mitt Romney and GOP members of Congress, despite passing a historic legal review by the Supreme Court in June. So, the fall election still could change the outlook.

But there’s no doubt of the law’s positive impact already — including seniors’ drug discounts; life-saving preventive care, such as mammograms; the end of lifetime limits by insurers; and insurance coverage for young adults.

If the law stands, those advances will be followed by major strides in making over the landscape of the nation’s $2.5 trillion health-care economy.

That’s the bottom line of a review by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, released Tuesday. The congressional research arm concludes that the law’s full rollout after 2014 will mean 30 million more people have health insurance coverage.

By bringing so many people under the umbrella of a health plan, the ACA holds out the prospect that fewer Americans will face serious illness due to delayed treatment — or even the documented risk of early death among the uninsured.

At the same time, the cost of the law may become more affordable — with the budget office pegging it at $1.2 trillion. That’s down from the earlier estimate of $1.3 trillion over the next decade.

Unfortunately, much of the savings would result from seeing fewer people than originally estimated obtain insurance through their states’ Medicaid programs.

But the overall cost reduction would stand in stark contrast to what the CBO said would be the steep price of following through with Republican legislation to repeal the health-care overhaul.

That measure, passed recently by the House, would boost the federal deficit by $109 billion from 2013 to 2022, according to the budget office.

Republican lawmakers counter that they’d make other cuts in federal spending to offset the loss. But these critics of what they call “Obamacare” have yet to reveal workable plans to make a dent in the nation’s vast numbers of uninsured citizens. It should be clear to them that the goal of policymakers in both Washington and state capitals must be to expand access to health care.

That’s an even greater imperative following the release Wednesday of a Harvard study that said fewer people died in states where Medicaid rolls were expanded. Three states studied showed a drop of 1,500 deaths.

That finding should tip the balance for GOP leaders, including Govs. Corbett and Christie, who have been wavering over ACA provisions that offer federal funding as the carrot to add 17 million people to Medicaid.

While the high court ruled states can’t be forced to expand their Medicaid programs, the Harvard study shows there are lives at stake — and it would be unconscionable for governors to oppose it to make political points.

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