Time to end fight over health care law

Majority Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire, and Maine’s Republican governor, have done everything in their power to stop implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The time has come to start working with federal officials to make the law work efficiently and well for the residents of both states.

If the states continue to simply fight implementation, it will become the law of the state anyway, without their valuable input or guidance. In the end, opponents will be seen as mere obstructionists who blocked health-care access to our most vulnerable residents: seniors, children, people with pre-existing illnesses and the poor.

Does anyone really think our current health-care and health-insurance systems are efficient and affordable? If so, they must not be paying for their own health insurance or ever fought for coverage of a serious illness.

Opposition to “Obamacare” is a sure applause line for the Republican faithful, but the latest polls show the majority of Americans are ready for the fight to end and the work of building a better health-care system to begin.

According to a poll released this week by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 56 percent of Americans believe opponents of the law should “stop trying to block its implementation.” Just 38 percent of Americans said opposition should continue. But that 38 percent is very well funded and speaks loudly.

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act has centered on three arguments. First, that it is unconstitutional; second, that it is unaffordable, and, third, that it will be repealed when the president fails to win a second term.

With its June 28 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court settled the constitutional argument and, according to current polling, the president continues to hold a lead over challenger Mitt Romney nationally and in most of the crucial swing states. If the election were to take place today, based on current polling, Obama would win a second term.

The financial impact of setting up insurance exchanges and expanding the number of people eligible for Medicaid in each state is a topic worthy of continued serious discussion.

While both states argue we can’t afford to expand Medicaid rolls with the previously uninsured, there is an equally persuasive argument that it will be even more expensive not to participate in the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

Kaiser interviewed Jocelyn Guyer, co-executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, who noted states not participating in the Medicaid expansion “will likely have to pay more to hospitals and other providers to compensate them for caring for patients without coverage.”

In the same article, Don Berwick, who was the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, noted: “It does not make sense morally or economically to leave a person out of the health system. That can lead to human suffering and increase costs for states.”

Given this reality, elected leaders in New Hampshire and Maine have two choices. They can work with the federal government, influence how the new federal health-care laws are rolled out in the state and represent the interests of the residents who elected them, or they can continue to let ideology obscure their view of reality and insist that “Obamacare” will never come to Maine and New Hampshire.

The fact is, it’s here already, and the major portions of the law will be implemented even if the states refuse to cooperate.

Right now, under the ACA, according to Healthcare.gov:

• 10,000 young adults in New Hampshire and 9,000 in Maine have been able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan due to provisions that allow them to stay on until age 26.

• In the first five months of 2012, 2,370 seniors in New Hampshire and 2,060 in Maine received a 50-percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the Medicare doughnut hole. This has resulted in average savings per senior of $657 in New Hampshire and $551 in Maine.

Across the nation, lifetime limits on insurance coverage have been removed and children can no longer be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions. This is just the beginning.

It is time for leadership in both states to stop playing politics and work with the federal government to set up the best and most efficient health-care system possible for Granite and Pine Tree state citizens.

– Portsmouth Herald