Senate votes down repeal of health care law, plus five Affordable Care Act myths debunked

Hewing to party lines, the Senate on Wednesday night voted down a GOP-led attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care reform law.

The repeal, which was actually part of an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill and was voted on as a "budget point of order," required 60 votes to pass. It received 47 votes in favor, 51 against.

"Voters in Missouri and nationwide sent a clear message last fall that they wanted their leaders in Washington to repeal and replace this law," Sen. Roy Blunt said in a statement after the vote. "I'm deeply disappointed that my colleagues across the aisle refused to listen to that clear message, and instead voted to defend this bill, which two federal courts have already deemed unconstitutional."

U.S. federal judges in Florida and Virginia have declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. But there's a key difference in the two rulings. Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, Virginia, focused on the law's requirement that uninsured Americans obtain insurance or face penalties and decided that it "exceeded the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause," even though that part of the law doesn't go into effect until 2014 (and even though the law technically doesn't force anyone to purchase anything-facing a penalty for not buying insurance isn't the same thing as being forced to buy it). Judge Roger Vinson of Pensecola, Florida, however, declared the entire law void. "This case is not about whether the act is wise or unwise legislation," judge Roger Vinson wrote in his ruling on Monday. "It is about the constitutional role of the federal government."

Confusion about the health care law abounds. Here are the top five myths about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, debunked.

Myth #1: Americans won't be able to choose their own health care policies.
In her Tea Party-sponsored statement after the President's State of the Union speech, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann said: "The president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, like … allowing all Americans to buy any health care policy they like anywhere in the United States." But a senior administration official insists that this is already the case. "Who this applies to is a very, very small number of people," the official said. "Eighty-three percent have private insurance. The rest don't because they can't afford it or they're not eligible for it" because of pre-existing conditions.

Myth #2: Your costs are going to go up in order to pay for those who can't afford their own insurance. Right now, those same uninsured people are still able to seek care at emergency rooms across the country-and a large chunk of everyone else's premiums goes to cover their care. According to a senior administration official, the Health Care Bill covers the cost of uncompensated care by bringing more people who are currently uninsured into the plan via "exchanges"-that is, pools of unrelated people who can receive health insurance at rates comparable to those employed by large companies. So, instead of a small businesses trying to purchase health insurance for 10 people, the exchange would cover several small businesses and allow them each to buy insurance as if they had hundreds of people to draw from. If more people are insured, fewer people will be receiving uncompensated care, and the costs associated with those that do will be spread out among more people, so we'd all pay less.

Myth #3. The law can't be unconstitutional, because the parts the judges cite as such are virtually identical to the plan that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts, while he was governor there.
Well, not exactly. You can't mandate an action and cite "regulation of interstate commerce" if nothing has been purchased. Then again, enforcing fees for not purchasing a commodity isn't the same as forcing someone to purchase it. As Susan Milligan points out over at U.S. News & World Report, the push to repeal the health care act mostly underscores the fact that the GOP isn't planning on hoisting a "Romney for President" sign in 2012.

Myth #4: Your out-of-pocket costs will go down right away.
According to a senior administration official, your costs will go down overall-but, for some people, it won't necessarily be less than what you pay now. "The challenge is that it'll take a couple of years to see a real decrease in premiums," the official pointed out. That's because health care costs trend upward in general, but the decrease they mention is compared to what your rate would have been without the law in place, not to what you currently pay.

Myth #5: The Health Care law burdens small businesses with so much paperwork, they're likely to stop offering insurance to their employees altogether.
In last night's vote, the Senate did decide to repeal the part of the Affordable Care Act that required businesses to file a 1099 form with the IRS for every vendor they've paid $600 or more. That amendment passed easily, 81 to 17-and eliminates the Tea Party argument, reiterated by Rep. Bachmann last week, that the government will need to "put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health care bill."

Also on Shine