President Obama just did something spectacular for millions of Americans: he signed a bill that would prevent healthcare insurance premiums from increasing in 2016. The bill is called the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act, which will keep premiums for approximately 3 million people from going up next year. The bipartisan healthcare bill was signed on Wednesday and surprisingly passed through both chambers with zero opposition, controversy or trouble.
“I’m very pleased that, in this instance, Congress rose above the partisan squabbling to make this improvement to the health care reform bill and I hope it’s a good omen for further cooperation.”
The bill, which made a small edit to the definition of what a “small business” is, could mean thousands of dollars in savings for some 150,000 businesses. The definition has been changed from 50 employees or fewer to businesses that have 51 to 100 employees. Had this bill not been signed, the premiums of small business employees might have increased substantially – 18% or more. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners were also supportive of the bill.
This bill is the 14th piece of legislation Obama has signed to make changes to Obamacare – eight of which were Republican bills. This particular bill is special, though – it’s the first time in four years that Congress sent Obama a bill that with the intention of improving Obama, not ruining it! The only time before this was a Republican-led bipartisan measure in 2011, which wanted to improve how the Obamacare-regulated health insurance market worked.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans are changing their minds about wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though. Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation who was involved in health care legislation for the Clinton administration, explained:
“I’m not sure this relatively modest measure will pave the way for a raft of bipartisan consensus around the health law. None of the changes strike at the heart of the law or change it in any substantial way. So maybe it’s a little overstated to say it’s actual governing.”
So it’s probably best not to get too excited. Since Obamacare’s implementation, the House has passed dozens of bills that would erase, defund or pull out vital pieces of the healthcare reform bill. In fact, the same day the House passed the small business bill, Republican committees began formulating a new plan to repeal the entire law – again. But this is still a huge boon for the American people, protecting us from getting fleeced by greedy insurance companies.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.