Assessing Benefits and Shortfalls of the Affordable Care Act that Provoked Federal Government Shutdown

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Posted Oct. 2, 2013

Interview with Oliver Fein, past president of Physicians for a National Health Program, conducted by Scott Harris


The Republican Party followed through on their threat to shut down the federal government if they didn’t get their way on defunding or delaying the implementation of President Obama’s signature piece of public policy legislation, the Affordable Care Act. Although the GOP’s goal in provoking the shutdown of the government was to derail the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the law’s online health insurance exchanges where people can compare and purchase various plans, opened as scheduled in states across the nation.

The Obama administration’s goal for the health reform law is to enroll 7 million people in its first year, with many of the currently uninsured being eligible for federal subsidies. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are prohibited from denying benefits to persons with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers must justify any increase in premiums by 10 percent or more and insurance customers will be able to maintain coverage for their children until age 26.

However, advocates for a universal, single-payer health care system, which operate in every other industrialized nation in the world, criticize Obamacare for providing health insurance to only about half of the estimated 48 million people in the U.S. currently without any health insurance coverage. The importance of health insurance was underscored in a 2009 peer-reviewed study conducted by Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard and published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study found that for every 1 million persons who were uninsured, there were about 1,000 related, preventable deaths. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Dr. Oliver Fein, a professor of clinical medicine and public health at Weill Cornell Medical College and a past president of the group, Physicians for a National Health Program. Here he assesses the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, and discusses PNHP’s goal of establishing a truly universal health care system in the U.S.

Learn more about groups advocating for a universal, single-payer health care system at Physicians for a National Health Program at and Healthcare-Now! at

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