In March of 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. ACA as it has come to be known was to be the signature initiative of the President and many long serving elected officials. The measure has been debated for decades with its final passage coming after countless hours of deliberation and many compromises. You may recall that while the ink was still drying on the signed bill, many states filed suit to stop its implementation. In fact, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was the first to the Courthouse and did not participate in the states’ class action suit. This past June, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the law. In a 5-4 decision, most of the measure was determined to be legal.
The primary objective of the Affordable Care Act is to increase the number of Americans with health insurance. It is estimated an additional 15 million persons will be added to private health insurance rolls. Further, another 15 million will be covered under Medicaid and other public programs.
Health care costs have skyrocketed during the past two decades. This parallels the increase in premiums that insured individuals and businesses have experienced over this same period of time. One of the more controversial components of ACA is the individual mandate for health care coverage. Non-exempt persons without health insurance will be required in 2014 to make a payment to the IRS upon failure to comply with this provision. The intent is a shared responsibility for health care. I frequently hear of people wanting access to the best health care in the world, particularly in this country. In my opinion, it is well past the time for individuals to share in its costs.
A few of the other highlights of the law include individuals will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26; people with a pre-existing condition will not be denied coverage; and insurance exchanges will be created to facilitate easy access as well as stimulate cost competition. There are many elements to this law and volumes have already been written about it. For a comprehensive brief on the law and its impact on Virginia, I recommend you go on line to dls.virginia.gov/pubs/briefs/Brief54.pdf. In the Commonwealth there is a small window for action, or we will find the federal government implementing its version of the exchanges.
Recently, the House of Representatives once again (43 times in all) voted to repeal the law but failed without the support of the U.S. Senate. The time, energy and staff resources that have gone into 43 votes is indicative of the gridlock that has kept this nation hostage for the last several years. Don’t we have a budget to build? In Virginia we try to avoid situations like this because it is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
As we approach the last weeks of summer, I want to wish our students a successful academic year. In our region, we have some of the top schools in the nation, and most definitely in the state. I invite eighth graders to visit my website and check out the opportunity to serve as page during the General Assembly.
Finally, we are nearing the height of the hurricane and storm season. Please take the time to be prepared for the season’s weather.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be e-mailed at [email protected]