Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
Last Tuesday, the president gave a State of the Union speech. It was too long, but it was friendly and conciliatory. It bridged political gaps and was meant to put all Americans on the same footing. It also set the stage for the budget that his administration will put out in the middle of February. There will be cuts in discretionary spending, but not as much as Republicans want. However, it’s more than most of the president’s base would prefer.
Later in the week, he spoke at Families USA Health Action 2011, a forum he had addressed four years earlier when he first announced his health plan and made health care a centerpiece of his campaign.
When I attended Families USA Health Action 2011, I was more than ready for his speech. I had arrived that morning at the conference’s radio row at 6:15 a.m. and was greeted by an e-mail saying that a health-insurance company had just turned me down. This has become my pastime lately. I apply wherever and whenever I can for health insurance, hoping that I will get a plan that is less expensive than the $1,760 that is my monthly premium. I have long given up on trying to get group insurance for my small company, my age and my pre-existing conditions (blind in one eye from a detached retina, hypo-thyroid and being 59 years old) have made that impossible. It is much easier to pay the premiums and the deductibles for my younger staff than trying to get group coverage that includes me.
The president spoke about the many older Americans who have been priced out of the insurance market. He spoke to Americans who can’t purchase insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Since he signed the Affordable Health Care Act last year, insurance companies can’t drop people already insured by their providers, but like me, they can have their premiums raised to the point that the insurance is unaffordable.
The Republicans want to get rid of the bill; they want to cut off funds to implement it. They should love the bill, as it helps small-business owners. In 2014 there will be state exchanges. Transparency will increase, and so will competition. Now, the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, where I am a member, can’t offer insurance to its members, who run small businesses like I do. Starting in 2014, three years from now, groups will be able to form so that small companies will be able to purchase insurance. There is currently a health-care tax credit available to business under this plan, but the hitch is the premiums are still high and there is little competition.
In the new law, there are some provisions to make mammography and immunizations available to people who purchase new plans. Starting in 2014, there will be a ton of provisions to provide preventive care for older Americans. Why would anyone, why would Republicans, fight that? Do they have a better plan?
In his speech on Friday, the president quoted the Business Roundtable, saying that by 2019, the nation’s largest employers could save between $2,000 and $3,000 per year for every family they cover. I would think that the GOP would be celebrating that kind of cost savings for corporate America.
President Obama also talked about what would happen if the House Republicans got their way and health care was repealed. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the law were repealed there would be $250 billion added to the deficit in this decade and another trillion to the deficit after that. Those are huge numbers. What solutions do the Republicans have for health care related deficit reduction?
Lastly, since so much of the “Affordable Health Care Act” is aimed at helping out small businesses and older Americans, why aren’t the Republicans jumping on the bandwagon? Is it that they want to win elections by denigrating the health-care plan, or do they really have a better idea? If they have a better idea, and the health-care bill they are putting forth reduces the deficit, takes care of exorbitant premiums and helps small businesses, then let’s see them raising the money, taking out ads and promoting their plan. They aren’t doing that, because they don’t have a plan that meets those criteria. When and if they do, we should be all ears.