What the Health Care Decision
Means to Us

by guest blogger Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families

The term “Obamacare” began as an insult, but now it’s the name almost everyone uses to describe the healthcare reform law. Earlier this year, some of Mitt Romney’s critics called it RomneyCare, because it was, after all, a descendent of the healthcare program that Mitt Romney developed for Massachusetts.  (An excellent program that Romney now says he opposes.)

But let’s forget the politics and call it what it is: the health care law that survived the Supreme Court. I like it because:

  1. Children up to age 26 can be added to their parents’ health insurance policy for the same price as younger children. (That part of the bill is already in place.)
  2. Insurance companies can no longer put limits or a lifetime “cap” on how much they will pay for your essential health benefits.
  3. Insurance companies can’t cancel your insurance coverage because you get sick or make an honest mistake on your insurance application form.
  4. Insurance companies cannot increase (by 10 percent or more) how much they charge you without justifying it first to your state or federal Rate Review program.
  5. Insurance must pay for screening tests such as mammograms, Pap smears, and colonoscopies.
  6. Women can go to an OB/GYN without needing a referral.
  7. And soon, people with health problems will be able to buy health insurance and be covered for illnesses they already have.

If implemented as it’s supposed to be, the health law will reduce medical costs. Why? Because every year, thousands (perhaps millions) of people who don’t buy health insurance get sick or get hurt in accidents. Many of those people don’t have the money to pay their medical bills. We don’t live in a country where we like to see people dying of cancer or gunshot wounds or in car accidents on the streets, so we rush them to the hospital and provide medical care even if they don’t have health insurance.

But somebody has to pay those medical bills, and guess who does? It’s you and me and everyone else who goes to that same hospital and pays for care through insurance or with our own money. We aren’t asked to donate or pay for medical care for total strangers, we just do it automatically without realizing it because our medical bills secretly include a portion of the costs of those unpaid medical bills of the uninsured.

It’s like magic: The fewer uninsured people who get medical care, the lower our healthcare bills will be. There are two solutions: We can lower those bills by 1) having fewer uninsured people or 2) by denying medical care to anyone who won’t pay.

Outside the Supreme Court, some Tea Party demonstrators said, “I will NEVER buy health insurance, and nobody can make me.” Perhaps we should just say to them, “OK, but please realize that if you or any uninsured family members need medical care because of illness or an accident—even an accident that is not your fault—you can’t expect anyone else to pay for your medical care.  I’m sorry, but you or your loved one might die because you defended your right to NOT buy health insurance instead of taking advantage of your right to buy affordable health insurance.”

In truth, I wouldn’t want to have to say that, and I don’t think Americans would find that situation acceptable if asked. However, some hospitals do that quietly, by sending patients to other hospitals or sending them back home when they actually are too ill to go home.

The Supreme Court upheld the law, but some states have done almost nothing to implement it. People in those states may end up with few options when they need health coverage. In contrast, states like California, Connecticut, and Maryland are going full-speed ahead to implement the new law in ways that will provide essential health benefits to everyone, with a benchmark plan that’s much better than what many Americans currently have.

I won’t be insulted if you want to call it Dianacare.  I’d be proud to have it named after me because I think the law is good for families across the country. Or perhaps we should call it USACare because finally, our government shows it cares by providing something almost every other country provides, affordable healthcare.

I’m tired of the angry politicians making ridiculous statements about government interference.  If they want to abolish the health bill but want to keep Medicare, then they are hypocrites (or worse—perhaps they don’t actually understand Medicare).  Instead of listening to the political food fights, let’s just look at the health care that the law provides and think about how it might help you, a friend or neighbor, or an unemployed 55-year-old who is too young for Medicare but too old to be able to get an affordable health insurance policy.

The bottom line: This law will end some of the worst insurance company practices that have unfairly hurt so many Americans.  It will improve healthcare options for women, children, and people with preexisting conditions or disabilities.  (Perhaps this is why so many insurance companies and their lobbyists opposed it, through quiet contributions behind the scenes.) It will pay for cancer screening, prenatal care, and other preventive services that could save your life.  That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Let’s think about it with an open mind.


Diana Zuckerman is the president of the National Research Center for Women & Families. She received her PhD in psychology from Ohio State University and was a post-doctoral fellow in epidemiology and public health at Yale Medical School.  After serving on the faculty of Vassar and Yale and as a researcher at Harvard, Dr. Zuckerman spent a dozen years as a health policy expert in the U.S. Congress and  a senior policy adviser in the Clinton White House.  She is the author of five books, several book chapters, and dozens of articles in medical and academic journals, and in newspapers across the country.


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12 Responses to What the Health Care Decision
Means to Us

  1. Dave Gallagher July 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    The only problem that bothers me is when they say affordable health insurance. Affordable to them might be 300 hundred a month. Someone like myself who is making 10 dollars an hour, that would not be affordable. pre-existing conditions, ok, i will be covered, at what price! If i had too choose between staying in my house or paying insurance., i would stay in my house. I agree everyone needs insurance. DAVE GALLAGHER.

  2. Alejandra Newsome July 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Love the article! Thanks!!!!

  3. Rita B July 6, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    I see you drank the kool-aid too. This is really a sad day. God help us all.

  4. LW July 6, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    If Obamacare is great for us, then why did Congress, the unions, etc. make sure they would be exempt? If it is so wonderful as you say, it would be required for all. This is all politics and you have played that game with your article. We are not stupid people. I find your article insulting.

  5. karen collenberg July 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    This is the best program to ever come along. We are self employed and group coverage is not available to us as it was when I worked for the school district. I have type II diabetes which means any insurance plan I opt for is priced sky high, like $1500.00 per month and that is with a $5,000.00 deductable, my husbands insurance is 450.00 per month. We are now without insurance because we simply cannot afford the premiums. We work hard running a dairy. Every day we work hard, 24/7/365. It’s crazy that we can’t afford insurance and others get it for free. I’m so excited that ObamaCare is now a reality. If you honestly disagree with this program that means that you have your insurance already paid for and you have no idea what is really going on.

  6. JS in Wisconsin July 11, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    I have just 2 comments:
    “It’s like magic: The fewer uninsured people who get medical care, the lower our healthcare bills will be. “ Do you really think that if this happens our healthcare bills will be lower – I highly doubt they will go down – they may not go up but they will never go DOWN.
    “your right to NOT buy health insurance instead of taking advantage of your right to buy affordable health insurance.” My boyfriend is 53 and has been waiting for nearly 5 years for Social Security Disability – he had half of his spine in his neck removed and cannot work because he has a lot of restrictions and is in pain. 5 years – no job, no income – how in the world is he supposed to get health insurance? With what money is he supposed to pay for it – affordable or not? Thank goodness he lives with me or he would be sleeping under a bridge and starving. The government and their “systems” are ridiculous!
    I really think they are waiting to see if he dies first so they don’t have to pay out benefits.

  7. Brunnhilde July 11, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Nobody said that ObamaCare is perfect. Medicare for All is what we should be striving for, but at least ObamaCare is a start toward achieving that goal. Perhaps we could have a better shot at Medicare for All/Single Payer or something similar (like ALL other industrialized countries) if so-called Libertarians and Tea Partiers would stop whining about Big Government and start facing reality–it is the for-profit insurance industry that makes sure we in this country have the highest per-capital health costs and some of the lowest health outcomes in the world. I wonder how many of these whiners complain about their Medicare once they are 65?

  8. Deborah July 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    “I’m tired of the angry politicians making ridiculous statements about government interference. Instead of listening to the political food fights, let’s just look at the health care that the law provides and think about how it might help you …” Diana Zuckerman
    “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent .” Thomas Jefferson

    Let’s just think about that for a while and determine who is really being helped.

  9. Brunnhilde July 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Ah yes, Tyranny–and it is the for-profit insurance companies–with their 30% profit, obscene CEO salaries, and “administrative overhead” fees (as opposed to Big Bad Gub-mint’s low 6-7% overhead costs for Medicare) who are inflicting the “tyranny” on Americans under the US health care system up until now.

    Yes, let’s “just think about that”–but make sure you are employing CRITICAL THINKING skills, not just regurgitating what the pro-corporate privitization crowd has been spoon feeding everyone to insure that those profits just keep on comin’.

  10. Mac Roman July 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Oh Lord! Please save us from Obamacare!

    All of you Libs who think that Obamacare is great have not read the law. If you have read it and you still like it, you need psychiatric care. Ask your specialist to cure your masochism.
    As for me and my house, we shall have better, cheaper, and more inclusive health care under private control, without Federal government interference. We will always have slackers, parasites, bums, and freeloaders in our wonderful country. No one is ever turned down for emergency health care anywhere in this country. We already have myriad health care help from a vast variety of government and private organizations where the less fortunate can get health care for little or no money. You don’t even have to be a U.S. citizen.
    In the words of Uncle Ronnie: “The most dangerous words in the English language are; ” I’m from the government and I am here to help.”

  11. James Miller July 11, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Where in the world did anyone get the idea that this is free healthcare? This is simply a mandate forcing everyone to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy, you pay a fine. In the beginning it is cheaper for employers to pay the fine and leave their employees stuck to buy government insurance. This is simply a ploy to gain a single payer government run healthcare system. Considering the great job they have done bankrupting social security. medicaid, medicare, Amtrak, the Postal service and more; do you really want to trust them with your healthcare?

  12. Brunnhilde July 12, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    James Miller, do you have statistics to back up your claim that the programs you cite are “bankrupt”? Let’s see some figures, please, to prove your statement–or are you simply parroting the usual claims made by the Grover Norquist crowd who wishes to shrink government until it can be drowned in a bathtub–not to make things more efficient, but so that they and their wealthy corporate benefactors can swoop in and privatize everything?

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