Editorial: Work on improving, not rejecting Affordable Care Act

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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This past Monday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) introduced a bill that would allow children to stay under the state’s health insurance program instead of switching to Medicaid, a requirement outlined by the Affordable Care Act.

CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, currently covers 190,000 children in Pennsylvania, offering its members health care coverage and services for children whose families earn below 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

The CHIP Act would strike the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all children whose families earn between 100 and 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — which for an average family of four would be between $23,550 and $31,322 — be switched over to Medicaid. Within Pennsylvania, this legislation would affect about 30,000 children.

While Dent, along with Gov. Tom Corbett, found issue with the services Medicaid offers to families, citing the inadequate and “substandard” treatment it offers relative to the CHIP program, they should spend time ameliorating the services Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act provide rather than finding ways to invalidate Medicaid’s existence.

The Affordable Care Act passed, was deemed constitutional by the highest court in the United States and is being implemented nationally. This should motivate our legislators who oppose the bill to at least enhance the health services implemented by the universal health care law instead of attempting to preserve what has been in place.

In a press release, Dent spoke about the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act, saying it “will negatively impact state CHIP programs like [the Pennsylvania] CHIP and hurt families with children who have come to rely on, trust and appreciate such programs by forcing them into a comparatively substandard Medicaid program.”

In a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dent went further to note the fondness families feel toward CHIP and explain that not all doctors accept Medicaid because of the complicated, extensive process they must go through.

“Medicaid is notorious for underpaying providers,” Dent added.

However, not everyone is convinced that this is the best path to take to solve such an issue. Pointing to the flaws of Medicaid and then proceeding to reject the service for the currently existing program directly conflicts with what a majority of the nation will adopt. Dent and other representatives should embrace the Affordable Care Act, and, should they find issue with it, work to amend and find ways to improve it. This will put their time and efforts to better use and better a greater number of people.

Patrick Dowd, executive director for Allies for Children, an advocacy group in Pennsylvania, agreed in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“If Medicaid is a comparatively substandard option, we should not be asking the question about how do we keep children from moving from CHIP to Medicaid without asking how do we make Medicaid the kind of program we want it to be,” Dowd said.

Medicaid, which has been cited as having both a better benefit structure and more extensive care, currently enrolls five times as many Pennsylvania children than CHIP.

Dent and Corbett, along with any legislator who is seeking to invalidate the health care act, should spend their time more wisely. Improving the system that will be in place is much more effective than rejecting it outright.

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