Health care for many years was similar to the weather in one respect: It seems everybody wanted to talk about it, but nobody did anything about it.
Then along came the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2009. President Barack Obama's signature legislation, it was the first effort to get more Americans insured. Mitt Romney signed an almost identical law in Massachusetts years earlier. That law is giving many Americans their first chance at adequate medical care.
Now the Republicans, led by Romney, want to move backward and eliminate what they call Obamacare. That would hurt not only individual Americans but the economy as well. Romney has proposed no replacement federal health care law and says the states can do better. But there is little evidence of that, except for the type of plan you might call Romneycare.
Utah is sometimes held up as a model, because the Beehive State has adopted an insurance exchange, the type of vehicle Republicans say is better than a national plan.
But statistics now show Utah's percentage of residents who are uninsured is higher than ever at 13.4 percent, or 377,700 Utahns who are without coverage. And for some groups, the rate is even higher: 24 percent of young adults between age 19 and 34, 26 percent of adults with part-time jobs and 29 percent of those who are self-employed. Utahns earning less than $14,867 a year are four times more likely to be uninsured.
One serious accident or illness and these people and their families could become bankrupt, homeless or worse. Medical costs are so high that, without insurance, care is out of reach for many people. And health insurance is also unaffordable.
Utah's plan is a failure. It has done almost nothing to bring down the cost of health insurance for those whose employers do not provide it. Competition among private insurers on the state exchange was supposed to bring down premiums. It has not.
Utah is also remiss in making health care available for our children. Some 56,500 children in Utah are eligible for coverage under federal Medicaid, but they are not enrolled. That is inexcusable. And state leaders say they may not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would pay 93 percent of the initial cost of the expansion.
The Affordable Care Act has its weaknesses. But it holds more promise for success than Utah's system.
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