In 2010 President Barack Obama was able to garner enough votes –both houses were stacked with a Democratic majority- to pass the Affordable Care Act. Ever since its passage the Republican Party has made several attempts to repeal the health care law. The reason for this is because the main thesis of the law is similar to universal health care. The reality is that in the United States it will be impossible to have universal health care coverage you will always have some Americans who will be out from having coverage. But the idea of universal healthcare coverage in the country has a strong smell of socialism and any government law that resembles this ideology is quickly shut down, i.e. tax increases.
However, with a new administration, the Republican Party may be able to have their way and repeal the Affordable Care Act as President Trump has signaled to a repeal of the law as well. This morning the IRS announced that they would not turn away tax returns if the taxpayer does not have health insurance. This was one of the sub-laws within the ACA that required the individual to have health insurance or face the tax penalty for not owning a health care package- the Supreme Court ruled it to be a tax.
The argument from the right has been that the program would be too costly for the federal government and that it would kill jobs. This is a constant theme you here from Republicans when there is a proposition to support middle-class and lower class families. The statement that it would kill jobs was used when the discussion about increasing taxes was going about but to digress back to the main topic the ACA did quite the opposite on both fronts.
The ACA aim was to assure as many Americans that it could get into the program. In a 2014 New York Times article reported that the ACA at that time reduced the number of uninsured Americans by twenty five percent which amounted to eight to eleven million Americans. The article also aimed that the number of Americans that would be insured by this year. The initial number was estimated to be 32 million Americans but after the courts ruled that Medicaid expansion was optional to opt in to the number was reduced to 26million. The current number of Americans who are insured is to be 22.8 million provided by the RAND firm. But what is interesting is how the number drops to six million Americans after the ruling by the Supreme Court on Medicaid expansion.
By making it an option it has given lower class Americans less of choice if they fall within the gap of not being able to receive subsidies for insurance or not able to afford it at all. The states that have expanded Medicaid have actually seen an increase in insured citizens in their state. Furthermore, the federal health insurance is accepted nearly in every health facility and doctor’s office an option that seems more feasible to the American taxpayer.
Today GOP leaders met with Congressional lawmakers to discuss the repealing of ACA. One of the things Paul Ryan has proposed has been to make Medicare a voucher program. A program as stated in The Price of Inequality “Medicare to a voucher program, in which individuals would be given a chit that they could use to pay for health insurance in the private market. Those who couldn’t supplement the voucher with their own money would have to make do with the best policy that they could get with the voucher.” This in turn would affect many Americans who rely on Medicare as being almost cost free for them as they would have to seek insurance that they would be able to afford. The elderly in turn would be most affected by these changes as their social security income already is very thin in terms of being able to make ends meet without the fear of going hungry.
In terms of the business aspect the right has stated time and time again that the ACA would indeed hurt the insurance companies the most. However, in the 2014 New York times article Paul H. Keckley stated “The irony is if you look sector by sector, the A.C.A. has resulted in pretty substantial earnings across the board,” Furthermore, “By one measure, the stock market, for-profit health insurers, hospitals and drug companies did well. One index that includes those companies, the S & P 500 Health Care Index, rose by 24 percent over the last year, outperforming the overall stock market.” This provides a clear illustration that the insurance companies were still reaping a profit with the ACA in full fruition.
There of course parts of the law that needs to be changed to correct problems that arise with any piece of legislation. One recommendations that have been made to address cost savings is in the following “…cost-saving measures include restricting patients to narrower physician networks that ask consumers to pay more when they see an out-of-network provider and setting insurance premiums based on consumers’ age, health status, and claim history in much the same way auto insurance companies price their policies.” The law in no way is perfect however; millions of Americans are dependent on this law because it provides a safety net that is in its terms necessary and a human right.
A doctor Jeffery Frey stated about the ACA as “…[impacting] those most vulnerable and people who could not come to see me,” he said. “It had little impact on the people who had been coming to see me regularly for 25 years. But there were now people who could not have come before because they didn’t have a job that gave them health insurance.” Another story described by a citizen who did not give his name stated “My son turned 21 in 2010, when the ACA was passed. Thanks to that, he was able to continue on my insurance until age 26, saving us the $672 per month that Blue Cross was going to charge to extend his coverage before the ACA took effect. Savings to our family? More than $40,000.” And another heartbreaking story, “Before 2010, my sister with Lupus could not buy insurance that would cover her treatments, because it was a pre-existing condition. That changed thanks to the ACA.” This law is intended to help Americans gain a fundamental right involving their health and it appears that over 15 million Americans will not be covered if the GOP and the new administration go ahead with a repeal. Time will surely tell where we will head in the next coming months.