Democratic National Convention 2012: Democrats wearing ‘Obamacare’ as a ‘badge of honor’
After years of being knocked around by Republicans on health care, Democrats have finally stopped running away from ‘Obamacare’, heeding to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s call “to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe.”
The opening night of the Democratic National Convention showcased the Affordable Care Act as one of President Barack Obama’s valiant legislative accomplishments to protect Americans from unscrupulous insurance companies and keep the nation’s health care costs from continuing to spiral out-of-control.
This marked a significant shift in tone and message strategy for Democrats after being on the defensive for much of the past two years as Republicans tried to kill the health care reform law in court and in Congress, where GOP lawmakers tried 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the Democrats have even embraced the derisive Republican label, ‘Obamacare’, because they repeatedly pointed out, ‘Obama does care.’
“For us Democrats, Obamacare is a badge of honor,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Kansas governor. “Because no matter who you are, what stage of life you’re in, this law is a good thing.”
Sebelius devoted her speech to touting the health care reform law’s benefits for middle-class families, seniors, women, small business owners, and young adults – all of whom, incidentally, are the key voting demographics that Obama needs to win in November.
Expounding on the themes of fairness, accountability, and economic security, Sebelius pointed out that under Obamacare:
1. Insurance companies may not deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, including children who are born with health problems.
2. Insurance companies may no longer impose lifetime coverage caps so that cancer patients and parents of children with serious or chronic health conditions are not left bankrupted.
3. Insurance companies can’t discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums – sometimes up to 50% more – than men for the same health coverage. Insurers also can’t deny coverage to victims of domestic violence or women who’ve had C-Section or breast cancer because those were all considered “pre-existing” conditions. “Being a mother is no longer a liability, and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition!” said Sebelius. “That’s what change looks like.”
4. More than 5.4 million seniors have already saved $4.1 billion in their prescription drug costs during the first half of this year. The Affordable Care Act closed Medicare Part D’s “donut hole” – or coverage gap – to give seniors discounts on brand name and generic prescription medications.
The health care reform law also stopped over-payments to private insurance companies that offer Medicare supplemental plans. These savings – totaling over $700 billion – were used to fund free preventive health services – including annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, flu shots – for seniors on Medicare. Catching and treating health problems early – before they become serious problems – will save everyone money in the long-run.
Despite the misleading attacks by Republicans, the Medicare reforms and cost-savings achieved under Obamacare have actually reduced out-of-pocket medical costs for seniors and extended the financial lifespan of the Medicare program.
5. Young adults, particularly recent college graduates with entry-level jobs that don’t offer health benefits, are able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 26. “Over three million previously uninsured young adults are now on their parents’ plans,” Sebelius said. “That’s what change looks like.”
6. Small businesses, self-employed individuals or people in-between jobs will be able to obtain affordable health coverage through state-run insurance exchanges. In addition, Obamacare offers tax credits to encourage small businesses (about 360,000 so far) to provide health coverage for employees.
7. Insurance companies that fail to spend 80% to 85% of the insurance premium on actual medical care must refund the difference to their policyholders. This so-called Medical Loss Ratio rule was designed to hold insurance companies accountable for controlling costs and ensuring that premiums are going toward health care instead of CEO raises or administrative overheads. “Today, nearly 13 million Americans are experiencing something remarkable: Instead of sending checks to their insurance companies, insurance companies are sending checks to them—over a billion dollars this year alone. Because if insurers don’t spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollars on your health care, you get a refund,” said Sebelius. “That’s what change looks like.”
Her remarks also set up the contrast between the Democrat’s themes of “We’re in this together” and “America is stronger together” with the Republican’s attitude of “You’re on your own in a dog-eat-dog world” disguised as a celebration of individualism.
While Sebelius focused on highlighting the Obamacare’s benefits on a macro scale, the convention also featured personal stories of middle-class families whose lives have been saved – in many ways – by the Affordable Care Act.
One particularly poignant story was that of Zoe Lihn from Phoenix, Arizona. She was born with a congenital heart defect. Her first open-heart surgery took place at 15 hours old; her second at 4 months old. By the time she was 6 months old, Zoe had already used up half of her lifetime insurance coverage cap. Her third – and final – surgery is scheduled for later this year.
“Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall, or if, God forbid, Zoe needs a heart transplant—Obamacare provides my family security and relief,” said Stacey Lihn, Zoe’s mother, at the Democratic National Convention.
The Affordable Care Act saved Zoe’s life and her future. One, it prohibit insurance companies from imposing lifetime caps, allowing Zoe to receive the medical care she needs to stay healthy. Two, it bans insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions like Zoe.
Without Obamacare, keeping Zoe alive and healthy will drive her family into bankruptcy. Without Obamacare, Zoe will be forever denied insurance coverage because of her pre-existing condition, condemning her to a lifetime of medical debt.
Consider this: What are the chances of Zoe growing up to be a successful entrepreneur who creates jobs if she is constantly sick and deeply in debt?
Repealing Obamacare – as Mitt Romney and the Republicans have so fervently vowed – will go a long way in ruining the Lihn family’s long-term financial security and setting up Zoe for a far less successful, stable, productive, healthy, and happy life.
“Governor Romney repealing health care reform is something we worry about literally every day,” said Lihn. “There’s no way we could afford to pay for all the cares needs to survive. When you have a sick child, it’s always in the back of your mind and sometimes in the front of your mind. On top of that, to worry that people would let an insurance company take away her health care, just because of politics?”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Stacey Lihn’s remarks at the Democratic National Convention
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Remarks by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Democratic National Convention
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Remarks by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick at the Democratic National Convention
- WhatTheFolly.com: HHS: ‘Obamacare’ saved Medicare seniors $4.1 billion in prescription drug costs so far this year
- WhatTheFolly.com: Poll shows Americans having trouble paying medical bills, delaying treatments
- WhatTheFolly.com: Health care law’s MLS rule expected to save consumers $1.3 billion in 2012
- WhatTheFolly.com: Health care law’s MLR provision would have saved consumers $2 billion in 2010
- WhatTheFolly.com: House Republicans repeal health care law for the 33rd time
- YouTube.com/BarackObamadotcom: Faces of Change: Life Without Limits – Story of Zoe Lihn
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