Hampton Roads officials celebrate five years of health care legislation
HAMPTON — Monday marks five years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, was signed into law.
The legislation has provided low-cost medical coverage to thousands of Virginians, and millions of Americans. It's meant to lower the cost of health care, while increasing the number of people covered by insurance.
Gaylene Kanoyton, president of the Hampton-based Celebrate Healthcare advocacy group, held a party Sunday at Peninsula Soul Food Restaurant, which opened Friday at the former Captain George's Seafood location on Mercury Boulevard, to acknowledge the anniversary and one of the act's "champions" Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News.
"Health care is a right, it's not a privilege," Kanoyton said.
Her organization held 35 events last year, and 25 this year to help people enroll in the government-subsidized health care program, she said. Almost 385,000 Virginians, and 11.7 million people nationwide, enrolled in private health insurance through the act's marketplace, healthcare.gov.
"It is important to remind ourselves of what was going on when we were considering the legislation," Scott said. "Before, the cost of health care were going through the roof. The federal budget was out of whack primarily because of health care expenses. ... Women were paying more for insurance than men. If you had a pre-existing condition, if you could get insurance at all, you were paying a lot more than everyone else."
Plus policy holders had to pay a little bit more to cover those who got medical care but can't afford to pay for it.
"It's affordable," Scott said. "Everybody pays the same price. Women don't pay more than men. People with pre-existing conditions don't pay more."
He said the 10-year projected cost of Medicare and Medicaid plus the cost of the act's implementation and its tax credits is lower than the projected cost of Medicare and Medicaid alone during the same period prior to the passage of the ACA.
"Essentially, we insured 11 million people and we saved money doing it," Scott said.
However, there are many in Congress who would like to see the Affordable Care Act dismantled. The Republican-controlled House has voted more than 50 times to repeal the law, but have not offered any real replacement for it.
"We're not going back," Scott said.
While he admits the law hasn't solved all of the nation's health care woes, it's on the right track.
The next step, he said, is for Virginia to expand Medicaid coverage to the 400,000 who don't qualify for coverage under Medicaid nor can they afford insurance on their own.
State Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said Virginians loses out on $2 billion a year to help cover the insurance costs for those individuals.
"We're dealing with a legislature here in Virginia that won't even talk about it," Locke said.
Newport News Mayor McKinley Price, who is on the governor's Department of Medical Assistance Services board, said about 8,500 of the 400,000 who would be eligible for insurance if Medicaid were expanded live in Newport News.
"We would be paying for it twice," Price said.
Taxpayers have already paid this money to the federal government, which is offering to reimburse the state, he explained. But since the state won't expand Medicaid coverage, the federal government keeps the money and Virginians continue to have to pay more in health care costs because there are uninsured to show up to hospitals for care that can't pay.
"It's absurd," he said.
The Daily Press