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BY BILL LOVE and ROBIN FORST | Members of the Lower Manhattan Democrats (L.M.D.) were thrilled by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the centerpiece legislation of Barack Obama’s first term as president.
Supporters of the new health care law have been eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court case, while opponents have been having a field day denouncing the Act, which has colloquially become known as “Obamacare.”
Now that the Supreme Court has issued a ruling, the L.M.D. believes the time has come for the law’s supporters to reset the terms of the debate. We’d like to inform voters of what we deem are substantive benefits that will be gained through this legislation — ones that could quickly be taken from us by Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans should they prevail in the November elections.
Among the major benefits of the Affordable Care Act, insurers will no longer be able to deny health care coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions, and millions of low-income people who don’t have health insurance will be covered by Medicaid. In addition, people who aren’t covered by an insurance plan at work or through government subsidies will be able to shop around for affordable health care policies through exchanges to be set up by the states.
Based on data compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.), the Affordable Care Act will increase the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 565 existing community health centers in New York State.
These health centers have received more than $157 million for multiple purposes, including the creation of new health services in medically underserved areas. According to the H.H.S.,160,000 young adults in New York have gained coverage as a result of the health care law as of last December; as of April this year, 3,320 uninsured residents statewide who were previously locked out of coverage due to preexisting conditions are now insured under the Act.
Closer to home, based on early forecasts of the new law’s impact, Congressman Jerrold Nadler — who represents New York City’s 8th Congressional District — has noted that an estimated 18,000 people in the district currently lacking health insurance could receive coverage under the new law. Further, up to 26,200 small businesses in the district may be able to qualify for tax credits of up to 50 percent of the cost of health insurance for their employees. In addition, relief could come to the approximately 7,100 Medicare recipients in the district who fall into the “doughnut hole” for coverage of prescription drugs, and thousands of young adults will be able to choose to remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26 years of age.
Some 6,100 young adults have already gained health care coverage because they’ve been able to remain on their parents’ policies, according to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who represents the city’s 14th Congressional District. And since the phase-in of the “doughnut hole” provision, 10,200 seniors have saved $7.7 million in drug costs.
Allowing coverage to both adults and children with preexisting conditions could protect more than 120,000 individuals in Maloney’s district. Finally, an estimated 66,000 Medicare recipients in that district have already benefited from the requirement that preventive care and services be offered free of charge, and an additional 130,000 adults and 18,000 children now have health insurance for preventive care.
The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act will, by expanding both the private market and Medicaid, help move the U.S. in the direction of universal, affordable health care and help to end our status as one of the world’s few affluent nations with such large numbers of uninsured citizens.
Bill Love is the founding president of the Lower Manhattan Democrats, and Robin Forst is the L.M.D.’s current president.