View From The Eighth Pole: Lessons From ObamaCare - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

View From The Eighth Pole: Lessons From ObamaCare

The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, didn't have the smoothest rollout after being signed into law by then President Barack Obama in March 2010. The federal legislation affording more Americans the opportunity to obtain health insurance passed on a party line vote (Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed). After becoming law, ObamaCare was challenged multiple times in various courts and countless efforts were made in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to repeal the Act.

Those efforts, to date, have all failed.

The federal government's Department of Health and Human Services had more than three years to plan and develop a website hosting a health insurance marketplace. Yet when the site launched in October 2013 (in the midst of a government funding shutdown), it crashed immediately.

“Now, like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix,” Obama said after that initial failure.

Nearly a month into the enrollment period, the site crashed again. And again. And again.

When the Affordable Care Act passed, it was viewed favorably by about 50 percent of Americans polled in various surveys. When the rollout was botched and some of the promises made by Obama weren't kept (“if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”), popularity in the program cratered to the point only about one in three viewed it favorably.

ObamaCare remained divisive politically, especially the individual mandate that would penalize anyone who did not sign up for insurance. (The penalty portion of the mandate was repealed in 2017). But a growing number of Americans began taking advantage of the law, including those with pre-existing conditions who previously were denied health insurance. The percentage of uninsured Americans dropped to historical lows and annual increases in insurance premiums were at much lower percentages than they were before ObamaCare became law.

In short, despite a borderline disastrous start, the program set up by the federal legislation is working and accomplishing what it was designed to do. Perhaps not coincidentally, ObamaCare is more popular today than it's ever been, according to public opinion polls.

So what does this have to do with horse racing?

You may have heard of another federal law, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020, parts of which are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2022. Unlike the Affordable Care Act, this legislation was championed by both Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Like many pieces of federal legislation, it was tucked into a massive federal spending bill, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in late December 2020 by then President Donald Trump.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, the independent, non-governmental agency created by the federal legislation, had less than half the time Health and Human Services had to prepare for ObamaCare. Its board of directors and standing committees on Anti-Doping and Medication Control and Racetrack Safety weren't named until May 2021,  just over a year ago.

A national search for a CEO took months for the newly formed board to complete, with Lisa Lazarus taking the position in February 2022. One of her first tasks was selecting and coming to contractual terms with an agency to enforce medication policy.

From start-up to approval from the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the Authority, it took six months – including public comment periods – to develop rules and accreditation standards for the Racetrack Safety Program. Anti-Doping and Medication Control regulations remain a work in progress.

That is an enormous amount of work to do in a very short period of time.

Just like ObamaCare, the federal law creating the Authority has been challenged on constitutional grounds in federal court, draining human and financial resources from the fledgling organization. The two lawsuits filed so far have been dismissed by judges in Texas and Kentucky, but the states and horsemen's organizations that have tried to derail the law are appealing. A number of state racing commissions have opted not to cooperate with the Authority, putting more hurdles on the track toward its July 1 launch.

And mistakes, website glitches among them, have been made by the Authority, just as Health and Human Services botched the ObamaCare website rollout. CEO Lazarus has admitted that on more than one occasion.

It's hard to imagine, given the challenges, that this is going to be anything but a bumpy ride at the outset. But the law says July 1, 2022.

We've heard from individuals who don't like having to register with the Authority as a “covered person.” We've heard from others who don't like some of the rules or who feel the people on the Authority's board of directors aren't qualified to make the rules. Some have said they don't like the federal government getting involved in horse racing. (Note to those people: the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 and subsequent amendments that paved the way for legal interstate simulcast directly involve the federal government.)

The bottom line is this: The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is a federal law, unless and until the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court says otherwise. You may not like it, but you're going to have to deal with it.

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