World News

Controversial US Health Care Reforms Reach a Milestone

More than 6 million Americans are now enrolled in new health insurance coverage in the United States, but the law mandating health care reforms throughout the country remains as controversial as when Congress approved it four years ago.

The new health insurance was first offered in October, but the government's Internet enrollment site was ill-equipped to handle would-be customers, leading to massive delays and widespread complaints. Most of the technical glitches appear to have been fixed and enrollment soared as Monday's deadline approached.

But even on the last day, people using the website were unexpectedly greeted for hours with a message that it was down for maintenance, and later a second access problem developed. The White House said it expected the problem would be resolved in time for last-minute insurance enrollments.



Most U.S. workers receive health insurance at their workplace that is largely paid for by their employers. But those who do not have such coverage faced a Monday deadline to start buying insurance or pay a financial penalty that could equal 1 percent of their salaries.

Congress approved the massive overhaul of U.S. health care in 2010. It remains as President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, although many of the reforms are just now taking shape.

But only his Democratic colleagues voted for it and most Republicans remain adamantly opposed to it. They especially object to the requirement to buy insurance, which they consider an infringement on personal liberties.

One health care analyst, Keith Kantor, tells VOA that many Americans who already had insurance before the law was adopted are unhappy about it because they believe it has pushed up their costs for coverage. But he said others getting insured for the first time are pleased.



"I would say the only positive I've seen is for people who are either unemployed or were low income. They're getting insurance for the first time at a very inexpensive price."



The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted more than 50 times to repeal it -- measures ignored and left to die in the Democratic-run Senate.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid lauded the law's goal of providing more people with insurance, often with government subsidies.



"The rollout was really bad. But let's look at what's happened since that. We have millions of people who have signed up. Millions!"



The law is popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare, and surveys show voters more opposed to it than not. But many people like some of the reforms, such as a ban on private insurers denying coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition requiring costly medical care.

The law is aimed at greatly increasing the number of people covered by health insurance in the country, and the government estimates about 25 million more people could have insurance by 2016. That would leave about 9 percent without insurance, partly because some states have refused to expand coverage for the poor.

The more than 6 million people enrolled in new insurance plans has come close to the original estimate that 7 million people would sign up by Monday's deadline.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law constitutional in 2012. But numerous challenges to specific provisions of the law are being heard throughout the U.S. court system, and the Supreme Court heard one such case last week. It expects to rule by June whether employers with religious objections to the law are required to provide contraceptives for their female workers.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs