BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – From noon to 1 p.m. today at the Prince Kuhio Federal Building, Hawaii residents will join Americans across the nation holding rallies in 140 locations against “Obamacare”, the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act they say is radically altering America’s health care system. President Obama signed the bill into law two years ago today.
The rallies – coordinated through – Standupforreligiousfreedom.com – are aimed at protesting Obamacare’s “trampling of religious liberty.”
According to organizer of the Honolulu Religious Freedom Rally, John Roco of Saint Damien Advocates, the “law forces all employers, even religious institutions such as Roman Catholic hospitals and universities, to offer contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, contrary to their religious beliefs and doctrines.”
“Enough is enough concerning President Obama not knowing his boundaries,” said Roco, a counselor in private practice, and founder of Saint Damien Advocates. “Under Obama’s Healthcare mandate, religious non-profits nationwide would be forced to pay for abortifacients, pills that cause abortion after a woman is pregnant, something that I totally do not believe in- something that is against my religion, my religious principles.”
Roco outline the group’s opposition to the law: “We protest the federal government’s definition of what constitutes a religious institution and the mission of religious institutions through the narrowly constructed “exemption” to the HHS Mandate. Not only is this definition false, but the federal government has no authority to make it. We protest that religious institutions (even under Obama’s so-called “accommodation”) are still forced to facilitate contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs through insurance companies that are mandated to provide them. We protest the Mandate for forcing all businesses — not just religious institutions — to provide coverage of contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates the employer’s own moral position on these matters. We protest the HHS Mandate — requiring contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to be given free of charge by all health plans — in general because it treats pregnancy and childbirth as if it were a disease.”
Other opponents are not focused on the religious freedom aspect of the law, as much as the way they say it will “wreak havoc” on medical costs, quality of care, and fundamental rights.
Proponents say the Affordable Care Act will ensure all Americans have access to fair and inexpensive healthcare.
But the Congressional Budget Office last week estimated 20 million Americans may lose their employer-sponsored health benefits.
Cost is another major concern. The Congressional Budget Office also estimated $221 million in penalties related to the mandates could be imposed on individuals and businesses.
In addition, the legislation will cost taxpayers $2.134 trillion.
The Obama administration released a report today defending the overhaul. Obama wrote: “Today, two years after we passed health care reform, more young adults have insurance, more seniors are saving money on their prescription drugs, and more Americans can rest easy knowing they won’t be dropped from their insurance plans if they get sick. The law has made a difference for millions of Americans, and over time, it will help give even more working and middle-class families the security they deserve.”
Obama said the bill has provided
• “2.5 million more young adults with health insurance on their parent’s plan.
• “5.1 million people with Medicare saved an average of $635 on the cost of their prescription drugs. And everyone on Medicare can get preventive services like mammograms for free.
• “Insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollars on health care and not overhead and cannot raise your premiums by 10 percent or more with no accountability.
• “It is illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. And in 2014, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal.”
Hawaii’s Senior Senator, Daniel Inouye, D-HI, said today: “Two years ago our nation enacted the most sweeping overhaul of America’s health care system since Medicare first began enrolling patients in July of 1966. It was a change that complimented Hawaii’s own historic health care law, the Prepaid Health Care Act.”
He added: “Working together, the Congress and the President finally restored a measure of fairness to our healthcare system by forcing insurance companies to put patient care ahead of corporate profit. The law requires insurance companies to pay for cancer screenings, eliminate coverage limits, and ensures continued coverage if a worker is laid-off or changes jobs. More children have basic health insurance, and seniors do not have to choose between putting food on the table or filling their prescriptions. Soon, consumers will not be denied health insurance for having a pre-existing medical condition. … I am proud to have been a part of the process that brought every American comprehensive healthcare reform and I will stand firm with my colleagues who seek to improve it.”
Next week beginning on Monday, a major battle will ensue in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices will hear oral arguments for three days on whether the controversial individual mandate forcing Americans to buy a health care is constitutional. The first day alone will include 5 hours of oral argument.
The Obama administration will be defending the law while 26 states and several private parties will be challenging its constitutionality.
In a statement today, conservative Washington DC think tank, the Heritage Foundation, wrote: “This provision is the core of the President’s health care law, and it is a direct attack on individual liberty. Unless the Court strikes down Obamacare in its entirety, Congress must stand ready to finish the job. The American people should continue to make their voices heard, demand a repeal of Obamacare, and insist on real health care reform that increases access without forcing Americans to fall under government control.”
The libertarian CATO Institute maintains “The Cato Institute has long argued that this case isn’t really about health care reform. Rather, it’s about government power and the fundamental relationship between government and the people.”
Inouye said: “The law is not perfect. It can be improved, and I have no doubt that it will be over time, in the same fashion that changes and improvements have been incorporated over the past 46 years to the Medicare program. However, I cannot state strongly enough that repealing this landmark reform and returning to the planning phase is an unacceptable proposal.”
The justices will decide whether to uphold the law, strike it down or get disallow some provisions, with a decision likely coming by June before their summer recess.