By Senator Ben Nelson
Many Nebraskans have contacted me to talk about the health care reform law that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on sometime this month. Officially, it’s the Affordable Care Act, because that’s what it’s supposed to do – make health care affordable and available to all, but it is at risk.
There is a fear that this is an activist Supreme Court and it will overturn all or part of the law, which the Congressional Budget Office says could raise insurance premiums by 15 to 20 percent, making it unaffordable and causing more people to go without insurance.
Nebraskans I’ve talked with like portions of the law, but not the mandate that requires people to have insurance. The mandate is necessary in order for the entire package to work.
The mandate requires everyone to have insurance, which helps pay for the bill and makes them responsible for their own health care if they get sick or injured. No longer will the millions of uninsured Americans be able to rely on the vast majority of taxpayers who have health insurance and pay extra to take care of them.
The estimated cost for those who have insurance to cover the costs of the uninsured is $78.5 billion. Last year this uncompensated care cost responsible Nebraskans a total of $431 million.
Affordable Care Act Helps Children
The full law doesn’t take effect until 2014, but parts of it are already being implemented. In Nebraska 15,000 young adults have been allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance policy up to the age of 26 which is important during a weak economy.
If the high court throws out the law it could also jeopardize coverage for the 61,000 Nebraska children who have a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes who are now insured for the first time.
Affordable Care Act Benefits Seniors
Senior Citizens will pay more for prescriptions if the law is thrown out. It has already begun closing the “donut hole,” meaning lower prescription costs for seniors. More than 24,000 Nebraskans on Medicare have already seen their prescription prices fall, saving each person on average more than $600 last year.
If the law is ruled unconstitutional it will also impact the ability of seniors to receive preventive services with no deductibles or co-pays. Last year, more than 197,000 Nebraskans on Medicare received free colonoscopies or a free wellness visit with their doctor.
If the law is overturned, insurance companies will no longer be banned from limiting lifetime coverage for chronic diseases which last year affected 701,000 residents in our state.
Critics Should Offer Alternatives
If the activist Supreme Court rules as expected and tosses out the law, the Tea Party wing and other critics will then be obligated to stop these grave consequences that will hurt thousands of Nebraskans by finally offering alternatives they’ve avoided putting forward for two years.
Should they fail, we’ll know all along they were just playing politics with the lives of children, seniors, small business owners and families.