The Affordable Healthcare Act—popularly known as “Obamacare”—has just celebrated its second anniversary, and Louisville’s congressional delegation appears to have wildly divergent opinions about the new law. Actually, just about every politician, pundit, and prognosticator in the country seems to have an opinion about the 2700-page leviathan; despite the fact that almost no one has the temerity to state publicly that he or she has even read the thing .
Famously, Senator Thomas Carper (Dem., Delaware), serving on the Senate Finance Committee, admitted that did not actually read the bill  before voting on it, saying that none of the senators on the committee “had a clue” as to what was in the document. When the health-care bill was being considered in Congress, then-House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers mocked the idea that legislators needed to actually read the health-care bill before they voted on it—or that they would understand the bill if they did read it. And, of course, we all remember then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s great March 9, 2010, speech: “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
And, last month, Justice Stephen Breyer “promised” he had not read the entirety of the 2,700-page health-care legislation the court was examining; suggesting that it would be unreasonable for the lawyers arguing over the constitutionality of the law to expect the justices to “spend a year reading all this” to determine which parts of it should be allowed to stand if the court decides to strike down as unconstitutional the law’s mandate that individuals must buy health insurance.
On March 22, Kentucky’s senior senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke to his colleagues about the need to repeal and replace the President’s health care law. “Looking back,” he said, “it seems like there wasn’t anything Democrats, including the President, weren’t willing to promise in order to get this bill across the finish line. As then-Speaker Pelosi famously said, ‘We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.’”
Sen. McConnell discussed the Independent Payment Advisory Board—popularly referred to as the “death panel”—which he referred to as “…an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats empowered by this law to make additional cuts to Medicare based on arbitrary cost-control targets.” McConnell described the IPAB’s main role as performing “the inevitable dirty work of denying care.” “In an effort to control spending, IPAB will limit patient access to medical care,” said the senator. “It’s that simple. And, frankly, it’s unacceptable.”
Concluding his address to the senate, McConnell said: “We need to reform health care. But this reform made things worse. The evidence and broken promises are all around us. It’s time the President acknowledged it. And it’s time the two parties came together and did something about it. It’s time to repeal the Democrat health care law and replace it with the kind of common-sense reforms Americans really want, reforms that actually lower costs, and which put health care back in the hands of individuals and their doctors, rather than bureaucrats in Washington.”
While Sen. McConnell was outlining what he believes is wrong with President Obama’s healthcare law, Louisville’s Third District Congressman, Rep. John Yarmuth, issued a report, What Health Care Reform Means for Louisville , extolling what he believes are the new law’s many virtues.
According to Rep. Yarmuth, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has already provided benefits to seniors, young adults, small businesses, and many others in the 3rd Congressional District. According to the congressman:
• 5,800 young adults in the district now have health insurance.
• 11,900 seniors in the district received prescription drug discounts worth $7.2 million, an average discount of $610 per senior.
• 84,000 seniors in the district received Medicare preventive services without paying any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
• 32,000 children and 130,000 adults now have health insurance that covers preventive services without paying any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
• 530 small businesses in the district received tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees.
• $1.1 million in public health grants have been given to community health centers, hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers in the district to improve the community’s health.
• 9,000 to 40,000 children with preexisting health conditions can no longer be denied coverage by health insurers.
In addition Yarmuth says, “…the consumer protection provisions of the Affordable Care Act have ended some of the worst abuses of health insurers. These provisions have helped protect 190,000 residents of the district from excessive rate increases by limiting the amount of money that health insurers can spend on administrative expenses and profits and requiring health insurers to post and justify rate increases of 10% or more; they have eliminated the threat of health coverage rescissions for more than 510,000 residents; and they have banned insurance companies from establishing lifetime coverage limits for 270,000 residents.”
Jeffrey H. Anderson, writing in The Weekly Standard , reminds us that when President Obama signed Obamacare into law, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that Obamacare would cost 3 million people their employer-sponsored health insurance by the end of this decade. Seemingly in commemoration of Obamacare’s anniversary, the CBO has now released a new report in which it has increased that tally by another 2 million. So now, 5 million people are projected to lose their employer-sponsored insurance, courtesy of Obamacare, by the end of 2019.
Readers may remember Obama telling the country, during the Obamacare debate, “If you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it. Let me repeat that: if you like your plan, you'll be able to keep it.” Of course, he didn’t say for how long.
The differing views of Sen. McConnell and Rep. Yarmuth has resulted in the latter sending a nasty four-page letter to the former; accusing him (in not so many words) of being disingenuous in his criticism of Obamacare.
Last month, Sen. McConnell wrote an op-ed for the Courier-Journal , calling for the law’s repeal. McConnell predicted that the law will severely burden Kentucky’s Medicaid system by putting 29 percent of Kentucky’s population on Medicaid: forcing the state to pay for this through some combination of tax hikes and cuts to schools, roads, and funds used to pay the doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.
In response to McConnell’s article, Rep. Yarmuth wrote to him and accused him of being irresponsible by perpetuating myths about the law and preventing small businesses from taking advantage of the law’s incentives. “As a member of Congress, I believe we have an obligation to give our constituents the full facts about the law,” he says. “When distortions and misinformation are allowed to displace the facts, each individual and every business in our state is left at a disadvantage that could cost them time, money or much worse: their health.”
In his letter, Yarmuth challenges McConnell to a public debate on the healthcare subject. To date, McConnell has not formally replied. To read a .pdf copy of Rep. Yarmuth’s letter to Sen. McConnell, CLICK HERE .
Rep. Yarmuth talks with MSNBC's Martin Bashir about the Affordable Care Act
McConnell: It's Time to Repeal and Replace Flawed Health Care Law
Sen. Rand Paul on America's Newsroom - 03/22/12
American Crossroads: "Individual Mandate-- Obama vs. Obama"
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America.