The Tea Party movement emerged during the summer of 2009 as opposition to the Obama administration’s health care reform became the primary focus of angry town hall meetings and protests around the country. As a Federal employee, I felt strongly that what the country needed were the kind of health insurance options that federal employees, including members of Congress, have for their families. We got only half that loaf. Assuming the Republicans don’t succeed in tearing down The Affordable Health Care Act, health care “exchanges” are supposed to be rolled out in 2014 that will largely provide options for individuals and small business like those of the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program.
For those unfamiliar with FEHB, the best things about it have been that it provides the chance each year to choose from literally dozens of health plans, including options for national fee-for-service plans such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The insurance can’t be canceled as long as we are employed, coverage can’t be denied because of pre-existing conditions, and there are no annual or lifetime caps on benefits.
The FEHB has been for decades a reliable, highly efficient, and well managed health insurance market place for tens of millions of federal employees and retirees and their families. Unfortunately, over my 30 years as a federal employee, we have seen big increases in premiums, co-insurance, and deductibles. There has been nothing overly generous about federal health benefits, but the approach used successfully to create a market place for federal employee health insurance could be part of a solution for expanding insurance to many millions of the uninsured.
That being said, The Affordable Health Care Act has lots of flaws. The Obama administration has already had to grant waivers to large employers such as McDonald’s to allow them to maintain current plans of benefits. McDonald’s and several other large employers have in recent weeks threatened to drop health insurance coverage altogether if forced to comply with the new law. From the beginning, it has been clear that the path to 2014, when the exchanges are supposed to go into effect, would be fraught with uncertainty. As the law is being phased in, check out HealthCare.Gov for the latest information and to access a health insurance market place that is a good first step toward the establishment of the health care insurance exchange.
The Republican Pledge on health care gives few specifics other than repeal and replace The Affordable Health Care Act. It basically says keep what’s good and repeal the rest. What’s being defended of course are the interests of the health insurance industry. The rights of the health insurance industry to profits seems for Republicans to trump any notion of the public good.