The Affordable Care Act Won’t Be Repealed — But It Can Be Fixed

I remember watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy was feeling depressed so Ricky hired a fake psychologist to examine his wife, but also to hit on her. The idea was that Lucy’s self-esteem would improve and the two start dancing while Ricky looks on. Ricky eventually gets jealous and tries to separate them, but the actor/psychologist simply says, “The treatment, Ricky; the treatment!” and Ricky stops himself. Needless to say, the plan went awry. Well, President Obama offered some treatment to the current health care system in America, but it didn’t have the desired effects, either.

The Affordable Care Act is not the problem many Republicans think it is. It is also not the panacea to the health care industry’s ailments. Obamacare should not be thrown out like the Articles of Confederation, but it does need to be fixed and more has to be done to truly get health care costs under control.

The Republicans in the House were bent on repeal and the Democrats in the Senate were not going to take up any legislation with “Obamacare” and the word “repeal” in it. The ironic part is that it took the Senate to switch back to GOP control for even the possibility of amending the ACA.

The “treatment” needs to be specific. In Congress’ case, candidates need to be specific in their prescriptions and can’t simply espouse their opinions in hopes it will attract votes. For Democrats, while they may have their own solutions to the health care crisis, a second opinion should be welcomed, not obstructed.

The comprehensiveness of the bill meant that there were controversial and divisive parts added that interfered with religious claims, abortion coverage, and regulations on how employers should provide coverage.

The federal government gives a tax-break for employer-provided health insurance and mandates they do. They are telling businesses to offer a service and practically paying them to do it. According to The Economist, this is one of the largest areas to fix. It would save the government money, which could then be offered to the poor as subsidies, and the employers would pay higher wages without worrying about providing health insurance.

Brooking Institute’s Henry J. Aaron points to another simple fix. The mandate on owning health insurance only goes as far if your premium costs are less than 9.5 percent of your income. That works well for individuals, but not for a plan that covers a family. The family plans cost more and the 9.5 percent rule needs revision.

Obamacare was more health insurance reform than true health care reform. Why not tackle the issue of mental health?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, treating mental illness can save $100 billion a year. However, it is easier to quantify a number of chemotherapy treatments for a cancer patient than it is to say how many appointments it would take to benefit a mentally ill patient.

There are other loopholes in how the ACA treats mental illness. This does not even get into the shortfalls that go to the root of treatment, the lack of public awareness on this issue, and the lack of psychiatrists and psychologists who treat it. The Department of Health and Human Services found that 55 percent of U.S. counties lack the needed staff to take this issue on. Those counties are in the rural areas of the country.

It was nearly a year ago when U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) introduced the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” to tackle this problem. It has undergone several setbacks and of course has its opponents. It will likely have to be re-introduced in 2015, but it provides a starting point to fix the holes in the ACA on mental health.

Lawmakers can’t be obstructionists and oppose a law solely because of the partisan path it took to getting signed. Health care did in fact need reforming, but the way in which it passed and the battles over repealing it look more like temper tantrums than how Congress should behave. Lawmakers need to vote for a solution. Obama and the Democrats already put their plan into motion. The least the Republicans can do is work on amending it.

The ACA will not get repealed — in its entirety at least. The pre-existing conditions rule and extending children’s coverage on their parents’ plans are positives that don’t need tinkering with. There are still ways to improve it by replacing some components. Democrats have no reason to fear repeal, but to accomplish the fix, it appears the Republicans had to overtake the Senate.

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