Sen. Mike Lee
Short of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there has probably never been a piece of legislation that was more divisive or more controversial before and after it was passed by the United States Congress than the Affordable Care Act. Dubbed Obamacare by many, it has become a beacon for some and a pariah for others.
The bill bringing it into law was passed and signed by President Barack Obama over three years ago, and since that time its provisions have stood the test of the Supreme Court and it has weathered over three dozen attempts to rescind it and others to "defund" it in the House of Representatives. And it is obvious by the mood of a number of people in Congress those attempts will continue.
While some provisions of the bill have already set in, the bulk of it starts to take affect on Jan. 1, 2014, only a little over three short months away. Many in the Federal government are resisting its implementation and at the state level feelings run strong against it as well. But regardless, state officials have been working on their part of what the law says needs to be done for the last couple of years.
All of Utah's Congressional delegation voted against the bill. And while all are against it, Sen. Mike Lee is one of its strongest opponents. Last week Sen. Tom Graves, a Republican from Georgia, submitted another measure to defund the ACA. Lee was quick to respond to the introduction of that bill.
"Congressman Tom Graves has introduced a bill today that would continue to fund all the functions of government and protect the American people from ObamaCare for at least one year," said Lee in a press release on Sept. 12. "The House should pass this legislation immediately and send it to the Senate. The president has delayed the implementation of ObamaCare for big business, unions, and his special interest supporters. Congress should act to delay it for the rest of the country, as well."
One of the delays he speaks of is one that the Obama administration put forward in July. At that time they announced that they are delaying the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. Since the Internal Revenue Service would be collecting the penalties the announcement came through that agency. Complaints by businesses about that section of the law had been loud and strong, particularly along the lines that the whole situation involved in that part of the law is too complicated and it would be hard to implement by the first of next year.
Another area of change came in August when the Administration announced that limits the the money participants need to take out of their pockets for insurance, which includes co-pays and deductibles. The delay was set to go past the 2014 election.
To many in the anti-ACA camp this appeared to be a pure political move. Lee in particular was critical of what he saw as a ploy to keep people from being mad at the present Presidential's final mid-term election.
And the measures to limit the bill have not stopped. In a bill that was passed by the House last Thursday, Congress voted to ban new subsidies to help people buy health insurance until the President's administration puts in a new verification system to make sure that benefits are provided to eligible participants only. That bill passed by a vote of 235-191, almost completely along party lines.
That was number 41 in a long line of attempts to change or get rid of the bill since it was signed.
So, as the political action continues to swirl around the bill, many of the provisions have either started or are ready to start up, with a large number of them taking place at the first of the year.
Proponents of the law say that all it is about is getting millions of Americans who have no health care, insured. The Department of Health and Human Services recently put out some facts about Utah and how people will be affected.
According to the agency, beginning Oct 1, the Health Insurance Marketplace will open to Utah residents to compare qualified health plans, get answers to questions, find out if they are eligible for lower costs for private insurance or health programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and enroll in health coverage.
They also gave out statistics for uninsured Utah residents who will be eligible for coverage through the Marketplace.
â¢ 359,577 (15 percent) are uninsured and eligible
â¢ 289,011 (80 percent) have a full-time worker in the family
â¢ 140,864 (39 percent) are 18-35 years old
â¢ 243,878 (68 percent) are White
â¢ 4,660 (1 percent) are African American
â¢ 86,010 (24 percent) are Latino/Hispanic
â¢ 9,574 (3 percent) are Asian American or Pacific Islander
â¢ 199,708 (56 percent) are male
In addition, 332,970 (93 percent) of Utah's uninsured and eligible population may qualify for either tax credits to purchase coverage in the Marketplace or for Medicaid if Utah takes advantage of the new opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Utah has received $2,000,000 in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of its Health Insurance Marketplace.
With so much controversy going on it is often hard for the common person to understand the ACA, because there are so many mixed signals about the law. Some of those signals are true, others are not. Many are in limbo as to the fact they haven't taken affect yet and no one knows how they will impact the country.
(This is the first of three articles concerning the Affordable Care Act).
(Sources: Senator Mike Lee's website (http://www.lee.senate.gov/public/), the Department of Health and Human Services, Associated News reports).