The effort to roll back health care reform is in full swing, nationally and in Pennsylvania. In one of its first acts, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act on January 19, although the bill is not expected to get a hearing in the Senate, and the President has vowed to veto it.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is careening down the same track as its Congressional counterparts. State Representative Matt Baker, the incoming chairman of the House Health Committee, has scheduled his repeal bill, House Bill 42, for consideration by the committee on Monday, February 7.
Health reform opponents have seized on the individual responsibility provision as a key point of attack, and the Baker bill would prohibit Pennsylvania from enacting or enforcing any penalties on individuals who do not purchase insurance.
The real danger is that the bill will prevent the state from moving forward with key provisions, including establishment of health insurance exchanges that will make it easier for individuals and small businesses to shop for affordable insurance, and that will administer subsidies. Pennsylvania is already behind the curve on this one, lagging behind liberal bastions like Texas and Indiana that are moving aggressively to implement reform and take advantage of federal grants.
One of the strongest defenses of the Affordable Care Act came from the American Medical Association, which issued a statement from its president, Cecil B. Wilson: “The AMA does not support repeal of the Affordable Care Act because it includes expanded health coverage, insurance market reforms and initiatives to promote wellness, which are in line with AMA policy objectives.”
The Pennsylvania Health Reform Implementation Advisory Committee, which includes representation from hospitals, doctors, business, insurance companies, and consumers, issued its report in January with a surprising degree of agreement on most issues, urging the Commonwealth to begin implementation of the law quickly.
The Baker bill would be a tremendous setback for Pennsylvanians who lack health insurance, but also for sole proprietors and small businesses that have no market power and have lived with double-digit rate increases over the past few years.