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Medical Maze

Top Five Questions About Health Care Reform—Answered

Jimmy Magahern | Oct 3, 2012, 9:47 a.m.

We’ve been told it’s the most important reform to our national health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1962, landmark legislation that will extend medical coverage to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans.

We’ve also been told it’s an unprecedented expansion of federal power that threatens our individual liberties.

We’ve heard impassioned personal appeals, like that of Arizona mom Stacey Lihn at this year’s Democratic National Convention, describing how her daughter, born with a congenital heart defect requiring three open-heart surgeries, was already halfway to her lifetime cap at 6 months old.

“The day the Affordable Care Act passed, I no longer had to worry about getting Zoe the care she needed,” Lihn declared, referring to the part of the plan that prevents insurance companies from imposing lifetime coverage limits. “The Affordable Care Act is saving my daughter’s life.”

But we’ve also heard equally impassioned words from people who say this country won’t survive unless the ACA—better known today as Obamacare—is repealed, and the sooner the better.

“We must rein in the skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare,” pledged Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the previous week’s RNC. Running mate Paul Ryan called it “the greatest threat to Medicare,” charging the law will funnel $716 billion out of the existing Medicare program “all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for.”

It is the best of plans, it is the worst of plans. Between the crossfire of highly-charged political rhetoric, it’s hard for any of us to get a handle on what the Dickens is going on with the new health care reform—or if it’s even going to stay around. To answer some of the top questions about the new changes, we asked representatives of Arizona hospitals, community health centers and the state’s Medicaid program to weigh in on what we should expect in the coming year.

1 Is Obamacare a done deal, or can it realistically be repealed?

Some of the more popular provisions of the ACA, including the ability to get insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep children on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday, went into effect almost immediately upon enactment in 2010. But the more controversial requirements, such as the individual mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to buy insurance or face an escalating tax penalty, won’t be phased in until 2013 and (in the mandate’s case) 2014.

With Republican politicians promising to make the repeal of Obamacare a priority in the event of a Romney election win, can we even be sure the president’s signature domestic achievement is going to stick?

Yes we can, says Tara Plese, director of government and media relations for the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers.

“I think it’s going to be virtually impossible to repeal,” Plese offers. “It’s a great sound bite for politicians who are appealing to constituents who don’t understand the Affordable Care Act. But the fact is, a lot of the new system is already in place.”

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