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Hard Bargain: Congressman Cummings outlines life without Obamacare

By Hazel Trice-Edney
On May 1, 2012

  • Obama granted Norton senatorial courtesy to recommend judges in DC.

Before President Barack Obama signed the long-awaited Affordable Care Act into Law, many Americans suffered - but African Americans suffered disparately, largely because of economic hardships.

 According to U. S. Rep. Elijah Cummings:
Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, more than 47 million Americans were uninsured. Of this number, nearly half were working adults. Another seven million were children.

  • Nearly 41 thousand people suffered a premature death because they lacked access to quality, affordable health insurance.
  • Every minute, eight people were denied coverage, charged a higher rate, or otherwise discriminated against due to a pre-existing condition.

 These were the conditions outlined by Cummings as he spoke to an audience at a Symposium on U. S. Health Care at Howard University last week.
 "If Congress had not acted, the cost of health insurance would have driven more people from the market. Health insurance policies would have been out of reach for more small businesses. And more people would have been forced to declare medical bankruptcy following an illness or accident," Cummings said.
 But, now that the U. S. Supreme Court is reviewing the Constitutionality of parts of the Affordable Care Act, new health care benefits and those not even enacted yet are at risk. The main contention is that the Act requires people to purchase some kind of health care, which some say the government has no right to enforce. The Court has heard arguments on both sides and is expected to render its decision in the fall.
 "With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we made the statement that health care would no longer be a privilege. And on March 23, 2010, President Obama established health care as both a right and a responsibility of the American people," Cummings said. "Today, this promise is under assault by those who would turn their backs on the social contract."
 In the luncheon speech punctuated by applause, Cummings also outlined what America could lose if the court ruled against the plan. The benefits currently enjoyed under the act include:

  • Children with pre-existing conditions are no longer denied access to private health insurance.
  • Young adults are allowed to remain on their parents' health insurance plan until the age of 26.
  • Small businesses that offer health insurance to their employees are eligible for a 35 percent tax credit.
  • Seniors are receiving discounts averaging $500 per year on their prescription costs.
  • Medicare preventive services are being provided without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
  • Grants have been provided to the community health centers, hospitals, doctors, and other health care professionals responsible for providing care to those most in need.

 Yet, 27 states have joined Virginia and Florida in a lawsuit against the Act. The other states are South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arizona, Georgia, Alaska, Nevada, Indiana, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas, and Maine.
 "This is unacceptable for a nation as wealthy and as generous as ours. I continue to believe not only that the government has the authority to implement health reform, but that it has the moral obligation to do so," Cummings said.
 The day-long symposium included discussions by experts, including doctors and researchers. The audience included health care professionals, students and the general public.
 "This is an important time to bring together voices for change," Cummings said. At one point he drew laughter from the audience describing how he went to the House chamber early in order not to miss the vote for the Affordable Care Act.
 But, even if the plan prevails in court, Cummings said many economic pitfalls remain.
 "Even if we could guarantee health insurance for everyone - regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or disability - could we guarantee that everyone could get to the doctor? Could we ensure that each person's bus would arrive on time or that each person's car would start that morning? Could we ensure that each person could afford to take the time off from work to visit their doctor?"
 He concluded, "The answer, of course, is no. But once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, it is my sincere hope that many of the well-known barriers to care will be lessened, even if we're unable to remove them completely."

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