Four things we know about health care now the election’s over

By Kathryn Mayer

That was exhausting.

No matter what we wanted as an outcome to the election, I’m sure we can all agree on something: At least it’s over.

With the dead-heat polls, it was plausible — and scary — to think we could have had another 2000 on our hands. At least there was no Florida this year. Oh, wait…

And though I’d like to say that the mailers I’ve been getting in ridiculous excess are over, I’m convinced I’m being haunted by them. The same ones that have stuffed my mailboxes about certain politicians are still turning up: in my mailbox, in piles of magazines around my home, my car. I also see them littered over the streets and around my mailbox area.

It seems I’m still suffering from a bit of election hangover. And I’m not the only one. It still has everyone talking — including Facebook friends whose sometimes hostile and always obnoxious postings (on both sides) have caused me to drop a number of them in the past week.

I feel there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the election — unfortunately the ultimate one being our country’s political intolerance for a party that’s not our own. But what about health care?

Here are four things we’ve learned.

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is here to stay. There were a number of people that said they wouldn’t plan for health reform until after the election. With Obama in office for another four years — and the major implementation of the law slated for 2014 — it’s not going anywhere. It won’t get repealed. So plan accordingly.

2. The election’s over, but the PPACA debate isn’t. Though Obama’s win ensures the survival of his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing for the law onward. States have two decisions to make: whether to participate in Medicaid expansion, and whether to set up their own insurance exchanges or leave that up to the government. Some conservatives are trying to press states to keep fighting health reform — and some are doing it. Governors such as Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas are rejecting both. And maybe many more will, too. Though states are due to give the government a plan detailing how they will roll out their exchange in a matter of days, less than half have begun setting up their exchanges, or have even agreed to do so.

3. Cost is still Enemy No. 1. A good friend of mine told me how she loves how the health law will give us free or affordable health coverage. Sadly, all I was thinking was, “Aww, she thinks health care will become affordable. How sweet.”

In my home state of Colorado, for example, individual premiums are expected to jump nearly 20 percent by 2016 because of reform, according to Jonathan Gruber, one of Obama’s key health care advisers. That’s just one example, though. Industry insiders and groups are saying the same thing.

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans CEO Michael Wilson says it’s important to note that PPACA addresses only one of the three broad issues plaguing health care: access. Now, he says, both employers and government will need “more time to address the other two issues: cost and quality of care.”

Though we aren’t exactly sure how much costs will change with the law, we do know costs as is are unsustainable.

Climbing higher — as often projected — seems dangerous to the finances of most families.

4. The country’s health care system is one big question mark. What exactly does health reform do again? That’s the question a lot of Americans — not to mention businesses — are asking themselves. The majority of Americans are still unsure of their feelings on the law and what it means for them, and many experts believe the administration hasn’t done a good enough job of explaining it. An eHealthInsurance survey found that most small businesses don’t understand the requirements of health reform. The majority either incorrectly believe or are not sure whether they must provide health insurance to employees in 2014.

Though we want to say the election’s over and we now have our answers, unfortunately it’s not exactly the case. Guess that’s why we say change is a constant.

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