Among the many life-changing freedoms Americans gained under Obamacare was the option to leave jobs at big employers - the only ones offering workers comprehensive, affordable health benefits regardless of sex, age or health condition - to start their own businesses. The health care reform law ends this absurd social policy, known as "job-lock," but Republicans are fighting to take away this important new freedom. They've set two more repeal votes for Wednesday to help them do it.
A report from the Urban Institute and Georgetown University says that this provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will liberate an estimated 1.5 million Americans to become self-employed and start new businesses.
Obamacare bans insurance companies from turning down applicants because of any kind of so-called "pre-existing" conditions including cancer, heart disease, acne, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, the full range of mental and physical disabilities, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, substance abuse, being a women and even being the victim of a violent crime. This provision protects 129 million Americans who have such conditions from being excluded from coverage and prohibits insurers from charging extra premiums because of a consumer's health history.
"By ensuring that people can't be discriminated against when they buy health insurance and helping those with modest incomes cover the cost of premiums, the ACA could help create a new generation of self-employed entrepreneurs," says Andy Hyman, who leads health coverage programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Having access to affordable insurance in the open market is what millions of people need to become their own boss."
As Wendell Potter has reminded us, this is a big deal. But the Republicans want to repeal it.
In case anyone has forgotten the benefits and consumer protections the Republicans are fighting to take away, here are a few examples of what their plan to repeal Obamacare would do:
- Revive the loathsome practice of allowing insurers to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Soon after it was enacted, the ACA required insurance companies to cover children with pre-existing conditions. The insurers fought this before and after the law passed. Repeal would permit insurance companies to push sick children back into the uninsured population to spruce up their profit reports.
- End prescription drug savings for seniors. In only three years, the ACA has saved 6.3 million seniors $6.1 billion on their prescription drugs. Repeal would force elderly Americans to give that money back to overpaid drug company executives. The ACA also strengthens and protects Medicare and eliminates waste, fraud and abuse.
- Kick young adults off their parents' health plans. About 3.1 million young adults are now covered on their parents' insurance plans because of the ACA. Repeal would dump them into a broken marketplace that doesn't offer them affordable, quality coverage.
- Make it more expensive to get preventive care. Preventive health services are now provided without co-pays in all new private insurance plans and through Medicare. These benefits include an expanded list of preventive health services for women, from domestic violence counseling to contraception. More than 71 million Americans have already benefited from the full range of these services. Repeal would restore co-payments and increase out-of-pocket costs for everyone.
- Shut down small-business tax credits. Last year, hundreds of thousands of small employers used the small-business tax credit created by Obamacare to provide health insurance for workers. Repeal would eliminate the tax credit and cause these small businesses to pay more, which would compromise coverage.
- End premium rebates and let insurance companies go back to charging whatever they want. In the last two years, consumers received $1.6 billion in rebates from insurers that spent more than 20 cents of each premium dollar on things other than actual health care, such as profits, administration and bloated executive pay. Last year, 77.8 million consumers saved $3.4 billion upfront on premiums under the law as insurance companies complied with the 80/20 rule.
These votes will be the 38th and 39th times the House Republicans will try to repeal Obamacare at a cost to the taxpayers exceeding $55 million. This wasteful legislative effort represents about 15 percent of the House's business calendar. The House could instead be powering the economy by creating jobs to support the middle class and those working their way into it.
House Speaker John Boehner is one of the least effective people to ever hold that important job, and now we can add wasteful to that woeful description. The only success he can claim is that he set out to run a do-nothing Congress, and he has without any doubt been a smashing success. Mission accomplished, John Boehner!