WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans will begin receiving health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday after years of contention and a rollout hobbled by delays and technical problems. The decisively new moment in the effort to overhaul the country’s health care system will test the law’s central premise: that extending coverage to far more Americans will improve the nation’s health and help many avoid crippling medical bills.There's also, of course, this:
Starting Wednesday, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and cannot charge higher premiums to women than to men for the same coverage. In most cases, insurers must provide a standard set of benefits prescribed by federal law and regulations. And they cannot set dollar limits on what they spend on “essential health benefits” for a policyholder. [...]
“I feel a huge sense of relief,” said Katie R. Norvell, 33, a music therapist in St. Louis, who has been uninsured for three and a half years and has a pre-existing gynecological condition, endometriosis. She signed up Dec. 22 for a midlevel silver plan offered by Coventry Health Care, owned by Aetna, and has already begun making doctor’s appointments.
“With coverage,” she said, “I can be my best self. Health insurance won’t control my job choices.”
Though this is a milestone for the law, it is unlikely to end the constant partisan battles that began even before its passage nearly four years ago. Late Tuesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily blocked the Obama administration from forcing some religious-affiliated groups to provide coverage of birth control or face penalties.The law still has powerful enemies, like the Republican U.S. House of Representatives. But it also has more than six million new beneficiaries, by Kossack Brainwrap's ongoing count: 2,104,332 in private plans and 4,002,609 in Medicaid/CHIP. For everyone in existing plans, annual and lifetime caps are gone. Some basic stuff—like hospitalizations, prescription drugs and mental health—now has to be covered.
From now on, every attempt by Republicans to repeal the law means trying to take away those benefits and all the benefits that have already kicked in for millions of people. And that changes the politics of this law immeasurably.