Republican leaders are still talking about writing an epitaph for the sweeping reform of health care in America. That takes a lot of gall, given all the positive reviews coming in this week for the first major consumer benefits provided under the federal overhaul.

President Obama pointed out Wednesday that implementation of the plan's patients' rights provisions "will end the worst insurance company abuses and help put consumers in control of their own care."

But Republicans in Congress - hopeful of taking back the House in November - are ignoring that and instead talking about cutting off funding needed to enact the Affordable Care Act, signed by the president six months ago. They want to repeal key provisions designed to make health insurance affordable and available to nearly 33 million uninsured Americans.

Looks like what has become "the party of no" wants to morph into "the party of givebacks."

That's not likely to sit well with families and working-poor adults struggling to provide for their health-care needs.

In the reforms that took effect Thursday, they're promised that health insurers no longer will be able to bar coverage for children with preexisting conditions, or for young adults who want to remain on their parents' policies a few years beyond college-age.

Also banned are lifetime limits on insurance coverage, as well as costly co-pays for recommended preventive services.

Other provisions of the law include a required appeals process for consumers when coverage is denied, better access to gynecological care, the ability of managed-care-plan patients to select their physicians, and a ban on out-of-network surcharges for patients who need treatment while traveling.

These first initiatives respond to gaping holes in the social safety net of the nation - the millions of uninsured, the relentless hike in the cost of medical care, and shocking flaws in the quality of care that result, through medical errors, in the death of nearly 100,000 people each year.

A report issued last week that noted an increase in Americans living in poverty only makes the case more compelling for moving ahead with enacting the health-care reform law.

Keep in mind that this is only the beginning of a process that will include some fine-tuning of reforms over the next few years. That's no reason to derail the effort in its infancy. To suggest that abandoning reform will lead to an improved health-care system is nothing but political rhetoric.