Belfast Telegraph

Fires still burning in the great Obamacare debate

By Jim Dee

As the US Supreme Court prepared to deliver its surprise backing of key provisions of the healthcare reform legislation championed by Barack Obama last week, a striking example of the stakes involved surfaced.

A day before the Supreme Court upheld the 'individual mandate' cornerstone the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), it emerged that thousands of federally employed firefighters who've been risking life and limb battling Colorado's worst-ever wildfires don't have healthcare insurance.

In spite of working upwards of 18 hours a day for two weeks at a time and battling blazes for six months annually, these firefighters aren't covered because they're temporary, not full-time, employees.

While some have heath insurance because their spouses have family health insurance via their own jobs, thousands of these part-time fighters go without, because they can't afford the exorbitant premiums.

Even with the passage of the ACA and its phased implementation until 2014, job-tied health insurance will remain the reality for most Americans.

Optimists on the Left hope that, now that the Supreme Court has upheld its most controversial aspect, the ACA will become the thin edge of the wedge that will some day deliver government-run universal healthcare.

'Dream on,' counter Leftist cynics, who note that, even when the Democrats had their biggest congressional majority in decades after the 2008 elections, they failed to secure even a 'public option' alongside private healthcare reforms in the ACA.

As for the Right, in spite of their coolness towards him during much of the Republican Party primary season, hardline conservatives, like the Tea Partiers, will now go into hyper-drive in an effort to help Mitt Romney win the White House in November.

Cooler heads within the Republican Party's ranks will know that, if elected, Mitt Romney isn't going to scrap some of the most-popular provisions of 'Obamacare'. ACA provisions barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, from imposing lifetime spending caps on patient care and from curtailing parents' ability to keep children up to the age of 26 on their policies are popular.

Still, even with Obama and the Democrats scoring a significant victory in the Supreme Court's ruling, healthcare in America remains a huge drain on the finances of individuals.

According to a Harvard University study, some 62% of personal bankruptcy filings stem from the impact of high medical bills.

Even with the Supreme Court's recent ACA-boosting decision, the intense bickering over America's healthcare system seems unlikely to abate soon.

And, as Washington's politicians continue to fiddle, wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere will continue to be tackled by thousands of uninsured Americans waiting on healthcare relief.

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