By Mary Andrus, Asst. Vice President, Govt. Relations,
Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs
As Yogi Berra once put it, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
On May 16, 2013, the House of Representatives voted for the 37th time to repeal or defund at least part of the Affordable Care Act. Though nothing in Washington is “for sure,” knowing that the Senate is controlled by the same party as the President implies that a bill to repeal, even if passed in the House, is highly unlikely to be victorious in the Senate, and even less likely to be signed by President Obama.
These votes reflect a continuing effort to erode confidence and, ultimately, the success of the coming changes in the health care arena. The average person on the street, who is trying to get through the day while managing a life full of challenges, may not have a context to understand what those words mean. This concern is supported by a poll taken by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April of 2013 that reported four out of 10 Americans did not believe the law was still in place and that 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the law.
If the health care law were to be repealed, the following provisions would be withdrawn:
- Insurers cannot deny coverage to children under 19 with pre-existing conditions; Lifetime and annual limits set by insurance plans are prohibited;
- Health insurance that offers dependent coverage must allow parents to include children up to age 26;
- Effective January 1, 2014, marketplaces must be established in every state, with access to federal subsidies applied to the cost of insurance coverage for those under 400 percent of the federal poverty line;
- Expansion of Medicaid to people with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty line by states choosing to participate (currently over half of them have opted in).
But there is a glimmer of good news. That same Kaiser poll suggested that in the previous 30 days, 40 percent of the respondents got information about the health care law from conversations with friends and family.
At the federal level, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services website, www.healthcare.gov, is the home base for information for the new marketplaces in every state. A national call center is in development, where a real, live person can assist in getting information. Closer to home, assistance is being developed at the local level – navigators, brochures, face-to-face support through community-based organizations such as the Easter Seals website, www.easterseals.com.
As professionals who interact with people every day, including people with disabilities and their caregivers, we can all play a role in spreading the news of the impact of the law and where to get information. We can assist in our communities through taking opportunities to provide information, answer questions, engage people with the bare facts – the law is in place, there are good things available now and more coming soon, there are places to go with specific questions. The success of these hard-earned policy changes that are the law will be directly proportional to the number of people who take advantage of new opportunities for accessing health care.