Yesterday, certain religious leaders and Republicans gathered in Congress to plan how to best to destroy those portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that regulate employee health plans offered by large businesses as part of employee compensation packages. Employee pay, in other words.
Just to be clear, because there seems to be some confusion, certain religious leaders and Republicans are demanding a broad waiver for all large businesses, and without regulation of large businesses, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care is effectively gutted.
“One of the fundamental purposes of the Affordable Care Act was making sure all health insurance plans cover basic services. The Blunt amendment would do away with that,” says Sarah Lipton-Lubet, a policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “A business could deny coverage for cervical cancer screening for unmarried employees, out of opposition to premarital sex.”
No opposing witnesses were allowed, which left a full day for certain religious leaders and Republicans to congratulate each other on their piety, charity and generosity, uninterrupted by anyone from out here in the cheap seats who might upset, challenge or otherwise fail to show the absolute fawning deference which we have foolishly allowed them to become accustomed to, and, naturally, they now demand.
Because we’re apparently a little tougher than Republicans or certain religious leaders, and we don’t require careful protection from an opposing view, I read Blunt’s defense of the new law he and the religious leaders drafted and are sponsoring, and here’s his suggestion to those of us who may lose health insurance coverage as a result of their law:
Blunt’s office also took issue with claims that his amendment could be used by any employer to deny coverage of specific items. The fact sheet argues that the amendment “does nothing to force the health insurance company to offer that plan; it simply ensures that Americans are guaranteed the same rights” that they had before Obama’s health-care plan became law. “Federal courts are well equipped to identify spurious claims” by employers who falsely claim “conscience rights” to deny coverage, he says.
He suggests that workers who are denied coverage take their claim to a federal court, so that’s helpful, and I appreciate that advice. In case you’re wondering, Blunt’s defense means that everything lawyers are saying about Blunt’s new law is, well, TRUE. Employers could deny any coverage, and employees would then petition a federal court and demand that their current employer show proof that he or she actually has a religious or moral objection to health insurance coverage. Accusing your employer of lying about their moral convictions or religion may be problematic for your average employee, sure, but Blunt and certain religious leaders think you’re up to the challenge, and they say go for it. See you in court, suckers!
I don’t expect we’ll hear much on the reality for the peons on cost sharing and the PPACA now that Republicans and certain religious leaders have made this all about them, so here goes:
The Affordable Care Act requires many insurance plans (so-called ‘non-grandfathered’ plans) to provide coverage for and eliminate cost-sharing on certain recommended preventive health services, for policies renewing on or after September 23, 2010. Based primarily on guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, this includes services such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, flu shots for all children and adults, and many more. While some plans already covered these services, millions of Americans were previously in health plans that did not. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits Survey in 2011, 31% of all workers were covered by plans that expanded their list of covered preventive services due to the Affordable Care Act. The most recent data from the Census Bureau show that 173 million Americans ages 0 to 64 currently have private coverage. Putting these facts together, we estimate that approximately 54 million Americans received expanded coverage of at least some preventive services due to the Affordable Care Act in 2011. Using national survey data on children and adults with private insurance, we next estimated how those 54 million people are distributed across states, and across age, race, and ethnic groups. We examined the following age/gender groups, and provide here a sample of the services they are now eligible for without any cost-sharing. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of covered services and is only meant to highlight several examples.
• Children (0-17): Coverage includes regular pediatrician visits, vision and hearing screening, developmental assessments, immunizations, and screening and counseling to address obesity and help children maintain a healthy weight.
• Women (18-64): Coverage includes cancer screening such as pap smears for those ages 21 to 64, mammograms for those ages 50 to 64, and colonoscopy for those 50 to 64; recommended immunizations such as HPV vaccination for women ages 19 to 26, flu shots for all adults, and meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations for high-risk adults; healthy diet counseling and obesity screening; cholesterol and blood pressure screening; screening for sexually-transmitted infections and HIV; depression screening; and tobacco-use counseling. Starting in August 2012, additional preventive services specific to women, such as screening for gestational diabetes and contraception, will be covered by new health plans with no cost sharing.
• Men (18-64): Coverage includes recommended immunizations such as flu shots for all adults and meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations for high-risk adults; cancer screening including colonoscopy for adults 50 to 64; healthy diet counseling and obesity screening; cholesterol and blood pressure screening; screening for HIV; depression screening; and tobacco-use counseling.
54 million people now stand to benefit from no cost sharing for preventive services under the PPACA. Just keep that in mind when you’re listening to the same rotating cast of 150 people “debate” whether regulation of large businesses under the PPACA is necessary, or whether workers really deserve these protections.