The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I attended the local annual “All Service Club Luncheon” and I was surprised to learn that New York Congressional Representative Maurice Hinchey was to be the speaker. My instant thought was to leave as I had heard his talks before and they all tended to be a big blame game. I decided to stay when I found he was going to speak on the new Health Care Law as he called it. He, of course, was referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
He began his talk by stating that he studied the law for the past week in preparation for this talk. I wondered why he only studied it the past week when he voted “Yes” for it back in March of this year.
During his talk he explained how the new law would guarantee coverage for dependent children to age 26 and how this age category was one that had difficulty obtaining coverage. He discussed how the law would prevent people from losing their coverage due to costly ailments as so many people do. He explained that the law would prevent inequities in the premium charges between men and women and how coverage for women was so much more expensive then for that of men and how the new regulations would level those charges out. He told us how so many pregnant women are being denied coverage because it was a pre-existing condition, and, in fact, that maternity wasn’t a covered expense. He further told us of people with pre-existing conditions being denied coverage.
At this point it bears repeating that he was speaking to the New Yorkers that he represents. He never once explained that in New York State insured individuals cannot lose their coverage because of illnesses they have but only if their premiums remains unpaid. He never referred to the fact that New York State has community rating, meaning that all people within a certain geographical area are charged the same premium for the same plan – regardless of age, gender or medical condition. He didn’t tell his audience that New York State insurance laws prohibit medical underwriting, meaning that individuals cannot be denied coverage because of an existing medical condition. And he never said that in New York State maternity has been a mandated coverage for more than the past 20 years.
At the end of his talk he was going to walk off without answering questions but that was not to happen. He was asked about the cost of the new law to which he explained that no one really knows what it will cost. He was asked about Medicare and Medicaid and he said that it was a very complicated issue. Finally, as he was ready to walk off, I could hold my tongue no longer. I spoke up saying I didn’t have a question but a statement that he should study New York State insurance as his talks would be to his constituents, the people he represents, New Yorkers who already have many of the mandates that are included in PPACA. His response- he already knows those laws and that they would be made weaker by the national bill. Fortunately the reality is that in the instances where the state regulation is stronger than that imposed by PPACA the state law will supersede it.
Context is important, especially with an issue as important as healthcare. We need to know what is happening and how it affects us, as New Yorkers.