By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On March 23, 2010, President Barack H. Obama (D) signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as Obamacare), mandating that all Americans purchase healthcare insurance and setting up a complicated regulatory scheme giving the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) massive new powers to regulate healthcare providers and insurers.
Under the terms of Obamacare, the uninsured can only purchase an approved healthcare plan during the annual enrollment period, unless they experience a qualifying event granting a special exception such as getting married or losing your coverage. The annual enrollment period ends on Thursday, December 15. If you have no coverage or want to change your current plan you must sign up by Thursday in order to get coverage for 2017. Citizens who fail to purchase or otherwise obtain coverage will owe a penalty on their income taxes for defying the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandate.
Every Republican in the Senate, every Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 Democratic members of the House opposed the controversial legislation. President Obama told a skeptical American public, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” That turned out to be entirely untrue as most pre-Obamacare plans folded because they did not meet the rigid standards set by HHS when the actual regulations were written by HHS after the thousand page bill became law.
The Affordable Care Act has been a political disaster for Democrats. In 2010 months after forcing the controversial legislation through the Congress, they lost their large majority in the House of Representatives as well a their filibuster proof super-majority in the Senate. In 2014 Democrats lost the majority in the Senate. In 2016 former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) vowed to protect and defend the Affordable Care Act. In November, she was defeated by New York City billionaire and reality TV star Donald Trump (R).
President-elect Donald J. Trump has promised to repeal and replace the widely despised healthcare law. It is not known what will replace Obamacare or whether the unpopular healthcare insurance mandate will be included in the Republican plan, when it is written.
President-elect Trump has selected Obamacare critic US Representative Tom Price M.D. (R-Georgia) to head HHS.
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said in a recent column, “One of the first friends I made upon being elected to Congress was Tom Price, a congressman from Georgia. I was so thrilled to see him selected to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. As an orthopedic surgeon, he understands better than most how Obamacare is ruining our nation’s health care system.”
Rep. Byrne said, “Dr. Price has served as chairman of the House Budget Committee for the last couple of years, so he also understands the need to pursue policies that help reduce federal spending and balance the budget. He will do a fantastic job overseeing the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama had over 90 percent of the healthcare insurance market in Alabama. That market domination has only grown after passage with each year under Obamacare and insurance rates have continued to soar.
Despite the rising costs, most Americans who apply do qualify for government subsidies for their coverage so actual cost can vary wildly from person to person based on their incomes, age, and family size. For some it can be quite affordable: for others, not so much. You can not be turned down for a pre-existing condition and there is no penalty for being overweight. Smokers however are charged more and deductibles can be very high.
Visit Healthcare.gov to apply for coverage.