CREDIT: Charles Dharapak/AP
After the New York Times reported that Obama administration officials will delay one of the health law’s consumer protections for some insurers — a policy that was actually made public in February, but got little attention until this week — Obamacare opponents were quick to pounce on what they saw as more evidence that the law just isn’t working. Republicans decried the decision to allow a transition period before enforcing the cap on out-of-pocket costs, which places a limit on how much Americans can be charged in deductibles and co-payments, for some employer-based insurance plans.
“Yet another Obamacare delay,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus tweeted, along with the #trainwreck hashtag. “Once again the president is giving a break to big businesses struggling with his health care law while individuals and families unfairly remain stuck under its mandates,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “More delays for big corporations while hardworking Americans are forced to face brunt of Obamacare,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted.
Aside from the fact that GOP lawmakers aren’t typically so opposed to Big Business, their sudden commitment to Obamacare’s consumer protections conflicts with their legislative priorities. Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare on 40 separate occasions, and some Tea Party members are currently pushing to shut down the government unless the health law is entirely defunded. If they get their way, the delay for the out-of-pocket limit will be the least of Americans’ concerns. Here are five consumer protections that Republicans would get rid of entirely:
1. Preventing insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
Americans under 19 years old are currently protected from discrimination based on their pre-existing medical conditions, and this provision will be expanded to include people of all ages in 2014. This Obamacare rule will finally ensure that the estimated 120 million Americans suffering from a pre-existing conditions won’t have to worry about being denied the health coverage they need. It’s one of the law’s most popular provisions, and Republicans have attempted to appease their constituents by saying they wouldn’t want to get rid of it even if Obamacare is repealed. Still, the GOP hasn’t yet come out with an alternative health reform model.
2. Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
Millions of young adults have gained access to health insurance through this Obamacare provision, which allows them to remain a dependent on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. Since this rule took effect, the country has seen a record drop in the number of uninsured young adults. Especially since young adults currently make up nearly half of the United States’ unemployed workforce, there’s a huge need among this demographic to be able to access health care through a means other than their employers.
3. Ensuring women aren’t charged more for their health care just because of their gender.
Obamacare’s preventative health benefits go a long way toward ensuring that women aren’t paying more for their health care simply because of their anatomy. The health law requires employer-based insurance plans to cover a wide range of women’s health services — like birth control, HPV vaccinations, STD screenings, mammograms, and domestic violence counseling — at no additional cost. That provision has been in place for a year, and an estimated 27 million women across the country are currently benefiting from it. On top of that, Obamacare also prevents insurers from practicing “gender rating” — a discriminatory practice that used to allow insurance companies to charge women more than men based on their gender alone.
4. Helping seniors afford their prescription drugs.
Obamacare closes the “donut hole” coverage gap for seniors on Medicare, which essentially means that prescription medications have become more affordable for the program’s beneficiaries. Over 6.6 million seniors have saved over $7 billion on their prescription drugs thanks to this provision. The health law has been phasing in these changes to Medicare’s drug benefit since 2010, and 90 percent of seniors report that they’re very happy with their prescription coverage under the program.
5. Requiring insurance companies to put Americans’ premiums toward health care rather than profits.
Thanks to Obamacare’s 80/20 rule, insurers are only allowed to spend 20 percent of Americans’ premiums on their own overhead and profits — and the rest needs to go toward funding Americans’ actual health care. If insurance companies haven’t been striking that balance, the law requires them to pay the money back. So far, millions of Americans have received rebate checks in the mail because of this Obamacare provision. This summer alone, an estimated 8.5 million Americans can expect to get one, averaging about a hundred bucks each.