Throughout the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has undoubtedly sparked controversy between both sides of the political aisle, becoming arguably the most contentious piece of legislation in recent history. Liberals tout its overwhelming success in lowering the uninsured rate in America, while conservatives disdainfully dismisses the act on ideological grounds, balking at the redistribution of money from the wealthy to the poor and predicting —inaccurately—that it would be detrimental to the economy. But despite disagreements on its success, the ACA has indisputably achieved its altruistic motive of providing healthcare to millions of Americans.
What is Obamacare?
The ACA, signed into law in 2010, expands affordable health care coverage. The purpose is to prevent insurance companies from hiking up premium costs and from charging different rates based on varying health conditions. It levels the playing field, and provides health insurance to those who could not afford it. The law allows federal and state governments to set up exchanges, which are marketplaces through which Americans can buy insurance.
Obamacare has also expanded Medicaid to provide health coverage to those who cannot afford health care. Individuals in the Medicare program (65+) are not affected.
How does it offset costs?
Federal tax credits and subsidies are given to families and individuals below 400% the poverty line.
What does the law put in place to prevent insurance companies from unfairly hiking up prices? How does Obamacare balance the playing field so everyone gets insured equally?
The ACA has employed several rules to check insurance companies:
- insurance rates cannot be tied to health conditions; all types health cares must be covered
- insurance companies cannot deny someone health coverage due to a preexisting condition
- there is a limit as to how much insurance companies can profit
What are other benefits of the legislation that serve the common good?
A mainstay of the ACA is it’s effort to increase affordability. Under Obamacare, prescription drugs have become more affordable.
What are some imperfections of the legislation?
The most contentious aspect of the law is the individual mandate, which requires almost all Americans to receive health care, otherwise suffer a penalty. The penalty for not obtaining health insurance is expected to rise from $695 to $2000 in 2016.
Because insurance companies had to cover more people and more conditions, health care premiums have risen for those already with health insurance.
The legislation is rather costly for taxpayers as well, at $1.2 trillion over the 10 years (starting from its unveil in 2010). However, the physical cost of Obamacare compared to its moral and societal impact is arguably minimal. In addition, the budget officials are estimating that the law will cost 11% less than originally thought of when drafted.
Overall, Obamacare has achieved its goal. Many low-wage workers and minorities (including immigrants) have seen large increases in health care coverage throughout the last couple of years. Over 17+ million people have received health insurance due to the ACA, and out of those, 80% has received some sort of financial assistance.
Figure 1: Uninsured Rate Due to Obamacare
Even More—full coverage to all citizens?
Obama in the past, has been quoted as supporting a fully single-payer health care system, but cautioned the difficulty of passing such a legislation. After seeing the gruesome, perpetual fighting between members of Congress on a moderate version of total health insurance coverage to all citizens, it’s hard to see how such a legislation would pass.
Those who support a single-payer health care system, namely supporters of Presidential Candidate Bernie Sander’s plan, fail to realize the infeasibility of passing Congress, in which many elected officials oppose eliminating all competition between insurance companies, wary of the long waiting lines for healthcare such a program would enlist.
Despite its shortcomings and the political discourse of the legislation, the ACA has by and large achieved Obama’s vision for health care reform, providing affordable health insurance for the safety of citizens of the United States. Even Republicans who disdain Obama to their core, such as Brent, have offered first-hand accounts at the life-changing effect the ACA has had on their lives.
Featured image source: Associated Press