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Editorial: On Affordable Care Act, we can’t turn back the clock

Former U.S. senator John E. Sununu, in a wickedly clever column for The Boston Globe, compared the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the act itself to several classic moments in modern television comedy. In one, Seinfeld character George Costanza smells smoke at a birthday party and knocks children and grandmothers out of the way as he flees in terror. In the other, a Saturday Night Live skit, Dan Aykroyd, portraying chef Julia Child, blithely goes about cooking after having severed an artery.

In their haste to distance themselves from Obamacare, Sununu said, many Democrats are acting like Costanza. The president, like Aykroyd. He’s right on both counts. And he says that neither he nor anyone else knows how the massive experiment President Obama launched will end. We certainly don’t, but we have a pretty good idea of where it won’t go, which is back to the way it was before the reforms to what passed for a national health care system were enacted.

Much depends on what happens over the next few weeks, when, presuming the federal exchange website is repaired enough to allow people to shop for coverage, more will be known about how many people sign up and for what. To work, the system requires the young as well as those in late middle age to buy coverage. Insurers, who want the business, are poised to launch a massive marketing campaign to attract customers, whether through a state or federal exchange or via their own websites. That should increase enrollment dramatically.

Coverage for those who enroll will begin after the first of the year, as will several more provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The most important of those, in terms of a departure from past practices, is the ban on an insurer’s ability to deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition or to charge them drastically more because of their affliction.

The mandate to buy coverage or pay a small tax penalty also kicks in on Jan. 1. Save for those exempt from the requirement, people who have not purchased coverage before filing their 2013 tax return will pay a penalty of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child. Presumably, the existence of the penalty will persuade millions more to buy insurance.

Attempts to delay, defund and repeal the act by Republicans, and perhaps by Democrats afraid of defeat in next fall, will continue. But the odds of success are small, given that Democrats control the Senate and the president would veto any repeal of a step toward universal health care that almost every president since Teddy Roosevelt tried to achieve.

The 29 states that have already added hundreds of thousands of poor to the rolls of the insured by expanding Medicaid aren’t going to kick them off. People with pre-existing conditions, who at long last have affordable insurance, aren’t going to give it up without a fight. In Connecticut, whose state health care exchange website works fine, more than half of those who signed up have purchased private insurance. Insurers will fight to keep the customers they’ve gained.

There will be no going back to just a few short years ago when insurers routinely kicked adult children off their parents’ plans at age 21 or when they stopped being an undergraduate. No going back to the days when insurers canceled coverage when a policy holder became seriously ill, or when hospital bills exceeded a set level. And, with luck, the movement away from fee-for-service medicine in favor of a reward for keeping patients healthy will continue, because if it doesn’t, the system will eventually collapse.

No, we don’t know where the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will lead, but it won’t be to reruns of the old health care system, which weren’t comedies.

"insurance companies kicked adult children off of their plans at 21"? Are they adults or children? The age of majority is and has been 21 years of age. You don't know where it will end? Next year over 100,000,000 employer based policies will be rejected and people forced into exchanges next year. It is widely known and accepted that premiums will almost double and deductibles will rise 500%. It is redistribution at the highest level. The government will now tell people who havd already paid handsomely for their coverage for decades that "you have been covered now you will need to pay for _________ who needs coverage so you will pay more, too bad!" Yes, the government.

Really Monitor, is this statement accurate?: There will be no going back to just a few short years ago when insurers routinely kicked adult children off their parents’ plans at age 21 or when they stopped being an undergraduate. NH had the 26 law before Obamacare. Why do the left get away with lying to us over and over again? Shaheen, Kuster, and Shea-Porter must be defeated in 2014 if we want to change the liberals culture of corruption going on in Washington.

It is true that we should not "go back to the old system" of healthcare. That system resulted from government actions in World War II, including wage controls. But the solution to government-caused problems is never more government. Think about it: Should the federal government create "national clothing," "national food," or "national housing" systems? Of course not. If they did, most of us would be naked and starving in the snow, except for the politicians and their friends. That's what happens when government takes over any economic sector. Thanks Democrats...but "no thanks."

democrats have never SOLD America on their socialist idea. In Fact...the democrats LIED to you to pass it. The truth was the enemy of their plan. Anybody remember the Stupak 12 and Obama's executive order - HE LIED to their faces to get their votes, If the only way to pass this MASSIVE unread awful bill was to ram it through with lawlessness, 100% partisanship and LIES then this major mistake that has the govt sweepingly take over 1/5 of the economy will never withstand the test of time. The democrats decided to just ram it through against the will of the nation....Read this and dare to respond.... http://spectator.org/articles/35226/obamacares-hideous-history-recounted

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