Health care overhaul six months on - what goes into effect today?

09/23/10 Kate Bradshaw
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It’s been six months since Congress passed the biggest health care overhaul in nearly four decades. Some on the left say it kowtows to special interests, and doesn’t do enough. Many on the right say it’ll lead the U.S. into socialism – or fascism, or both, depending on who you ask. Advocates are struggling to get the message out on what the plan actually does, and gathered in Tampa this afternoon to discuss what the Affordable Care Act means for Americans.

One problem, said one audience member at today’s meeting, is that those who fought the bill tooth and nail back in March are winning the war on semantics. They use terms like “Obamacare” and socialized medicine to peg the bill as a flex of the administration’s paternalistic muscle. The bill basically requires medical insurance providers to expand their coverage while expanding the eligibility parameters for government-sponsored health coverage. Patrick Cannon is Advocacy Director for Florida CHAIN, a group whose mission is to promote quality affordable health care for all Floridians.

Among changes that go into effect today, Cannon says plans now generally have to insure dependents of those covered until age 26, among other things.

Dr. Charles Mahan, one of experts on today’s panel, says he never expected to see such legislation pass.

He says the bill might have flaws, including lack of dental coverage, but he’s no less optimistic.

Greg Mellowe is policy director for Florida CHAIN. He says the big changes are a still four years out – that’s two full election cycles.

In addition to the right’s lambasting of the reform, it also faces tangible challenges, including a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, and the threat of repeal if the GOP takes Congress in November. Charles Mahan says there’s one way new supporters of the policy can combat these threats.

The war of words that you can see daily on cable news may be fueling the fire. At a recent conservative summit Republican former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee compared insuring people with preexisting conditions to insuring a house that already burned down. Mahan says that amounts to calling such people useless.

Some say the new law doesn’t go far enough. Dr. Quentin Young is national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program. He says that a single payer system is the only way to go.

Such a system, which countries like England, Canada, and most recently Taiwan have adopted, would entail a single, government-administered health insurance system nearly everyone would be able to use.

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I thought the important change for Tampa is that students will be covered under their parents policies until age 26.