Carol Shea-Porter -It’s Legal and it’s Good

In my last column, I said that the new health care bill should be upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Before it passed, millions of people could not get insurance, either because it was too expensive or because they had preexisting conditions and insurance companies refused to insure them. Many had no insurance because their employers did not offer it, or they were self-employed or unemployed. Being female was considered a preexisting condition, and women were charged more. I quoted from articles that reminded us that people actually died without insurance, or were forced into bankruptcy when their insurance company dropped them or set caps, and their illness cost more than the cap. The new healthcare law addressed these problems and many more, and so, while the law needs some fine tuning as we go forward, I said the Supreme Court should let the law stand.

This week, the Court did exactly that. And while Republican leaders insisted that they would repeal and replace, they do not have a plan to replace, and they will not be able to repeal. So, we need to work together to implement and improve our health care law. The time for the fighting is over. I held 13 town halls after we passed health care so I could discuss the law and its impact, and dispel myths, but in the political battle at that time, many facts were lost in the noise. Many people still worry that jobs will shrink, or the nation will go broke offering health care. (This last group would have had more worries if no steps had been taken to slow down cost increases.) Some small businesses, already struggling, worry that they will be unable provide health care.

In my last article, I showed how House leaders were using a study that was not even about the health care bill to claim there would be job losses. And one of the conclusions of that study was that there would be job creation! 

In his article, “Small Business Sees Advantages in Health Care Ruling,” John Schoen quotes a small business owner from Ohio. Tammy Krings, who has 160 employees, said the law is good because it puts younger workers into the insurance pool. “We don’t have the balance of healthy people on our program.” Schoen reports that her premiums had been rising 30% in recent years.

That was one of the reasons we worked on a health care law—premiums were rising rapidly, with no end in sight. Requiring everyone to have health insurance is good policy, because it brings healthier people into the pool, and because it saves taxpayers money. Taxpayers will no longer get stuck paying someone else’s huge bills because that person would not or could not get insurance. Treating the uninsured without compensation is a huge problem for hospitals, and  also for those with insurance who get charged more to cover those without it. The individual mandate will guarantee that almost every American has health insurance.

The individual mandate was actually a Republican idea. They rightly felt that people should be responsible for themselves as much as possible, and as governor, Mitt Romney created the same plan that the country now has. Individuals must have insurance, and if they cannot afford it, the government will help them pay for it, because it both promotes individual responsibility and saves money.

People will now hear Republican leaders screaming about the penalty, even though most Americans will be completely unaffected by it. About one percent of the people will pay a penalty for not having insurance. What they won’t tell you is under this new law, if insurance companies spend too much of your premium money on administrative costs or CEO bonuses, you will get a rebate.

Small businesses will not be forced to offer coverage, but they probably will want to. There are tax credits for many small businesses, and it will be easier to shop and compare to find the best deal for them and for their employees.

There is so much more to learn about this health care law and its benefits. Healthcare.gov offers a lot of information. Let’s hope the political fighting stops and we can all work together to make our health care system work better and more efficiently, and that we continue to work on ways to control costs and increase access. Here’s to our health!

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Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election.  She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages.  She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.