Opinion

The terrible twos

Ever have one of those birthdays that just didn’t go the way you planned?

I had one when I held an all-girl birthday bash at my house. One partygoer who came always had a tendency for the dramatic—which was annoying enough considering we were only in the second grade. This girl popped the balloons and then proceeded to tear open the gifts because she thought I was taking too long to open them (an incident that I’m clearly over today).

Why am I thinking of this? Because of course, today marks the second birthday of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And all health reform proponents and the Obama administration wants to do is celebrate. But the Supreme Court is that dramatic girl who’s ripping open the presents and smashing birthday cake in someone’s face.

With the court beginning to hear arguments in just a couple days over the law’s constitutionality, it’s obvious to say they’re putting a damper on the party.

I can’t think of a better time to take a look back on what’s happened as reform enters its terrible twos.

First, the good: More kids and young adults have access to care. Health reform not only provides more coverage to young adults, but ensures they have coverage longer. The HHS says 2.5 million more young people were insured in June 2011 than were insured in September 2010 because of the provision of health reform that allowed people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plan. Prior to the law, data show, young people were more than twice as likely to lose their insurance over time than older adults.

The bad: Depending on whom we ask, there’s a lot we can say here. But here’s some obvious ones:

CLASS dismissed. This piece—that was designed to provide affordable long-term care insurance—was a key component of the entire PPACA, so the fact that the administration sold it out so fast was a bit of a head-scratcher.

That whole “If you like what you have, you can keep it” thing. We’ve been told we don’t have to get our own coverage from the state exchanges being set up; if we like our employer-sponsored coverage, we can keep it. It’s just too bad employer-sponsored coverage is at an all-time low: The number of Americans getting health insurance from their employer continues to drop, with a record low 44.6 percent getting employer-sponsored coverage in 2011, according to Gallup. And remember that controversial McKinsey survey from last year? They said one-third of employers would drop health coverage after 2014. And other surveys since have shared the same kind of sentiment. A HighRoads study, for example, found employers will drop coverage in 2014 if their competition does.

The number of uninsured. With the exception of young people, more Americans lack health coverage today than they did four years ago. The percentage of the uninsured rose to 17.1 percent this year, the highest seen since 2008.

The ugly: That would be the Supreme Court ruining the party. This upcoming week will mark an unprecedented case, and for once, one that will affect each and every one of us. While we don’t know what will be happening live behind closed doors, we can guess regardless of what they rule, it’s going to be monumental. This can go a number of ways—from upholding the law, ruling the mandate unconstitutional or throwing out the entire piece of legislation.

Regardless of what’s happened, what will happen and what we all think about health reform, we can all admit one thing—there’s been a lot that has happened over the past two years (Check out exactly what here). By my second birthday, I was throwing fits (totally not what I do now), learning my ABCs, and terrified of my older sister (long story). I’m just glad I didn’t know what the Supreme Court was then. Or health insurance for that matter, because as I’ve found out, it’s really scary.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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