Healthcare in a Nutshell
Since you were probably a teenager when it debuted, here’s everything you need to know about the ACA and its Republican-proposed replacement.
By Amna Ijaz, Collin College
In the hope of overhauling the Affordable Care Act in the coming year, Republicans recently proposed their version of a national healthcare bill, called the American Health Care Act.
While doing so, GOP officials continue to malign Obamacare for its inefficiency and price hikes, though over the last several years, the Affordable Care Act has insured 20 million Americans. Before Obamacare, the United States had nothing similar to a unilateral health care system. For the uninsured in America, premiums were skyrocketing and death tolls were increasing rapidly. Obamacare sought to fix the problems in the healthcare system and provide a cheaper alternative for the ailing, a system that Republicans are now seeking to disarm.
For millennials, it is a lot harder to understand what exactly it is that Obamacare does. At the time of the plan’s implementation, most current students were just belligerent teens with no interest in politics whatsoever. Nowadays though, all anyone ever hears about on the news is healthcare reform, which might lead a curious college student to ask, What is Obamacare, and why are so many old white men against it?
President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, into effect in 2010. Unlike in countries such as the UK or Canada, where healthcare is free for citizens, medical care in the United States is extremely expensive, especially for sick people with lower incomes.
The privatization of healthcare leads companies to take advantage of their consumers and charge unreasonable prices for what could be life-saving medications and procedures. As a result, Obamacare hoped to fix these problems and expand affordable health care to everyone. While it may not be free or perfect, the intent of the bill was to support the working class and protect them from wrongful treatment by the healthcare industry.
If you were wondering how healthcare works, here is an example. In a pool of 100 people, 20 percent of them are sick and need medical attention, while the remaining 80 percent require only an occasional visit. If the 20 percent were left to fend for themselves, their costs would be insanely high, but, because the majority of the pool is composed of healthy people who pay into the system through taxes, yet hardly use its resources, the healthcare costs for the sicker people are diluted by the payments of the healthy.
Before Obamacare, the problem was that there were too many sick people joining in on health plans, which drove up the monthly premiums for everyone, including the healthy people. Healthy people decided that they didn’t need to be paying half of their income for insurance they barely ever used, so they left the companies, leaving the sick to fend for themselves with insurmountable costs.
As a part of its implementation strategy, Obamacare put an individual mandate on every single citizen to comply with the rules and get insured. If an individual chose not to, then they would pay a fine through taxes. The idea was to make a lot of healthy people sign up for insurance, so that the premiums for the sick would decrease.
In thought, the concept is a noble one, but in real life, the theory is much harder to implement.
Many people decided that they would rather pay the fee than get insured, while others found loopholes to escape payment entirely.
Obamacare is not without faults, but it is the first time that the U.S. has had a proper way to protect the rights of patients, those that are likelier to require expensive procedures from the at-times unfair healthcare industry. Obamacare puts everyone in the same pool, so men pay the same as women and the sick pay the same as the healthy.
Still, a lot of people believe that the federal government should leave medical insurance to the states. So why would the federal government go forward with a national healthcare system? The reasoning holds that if everyone gets insurance, citizens are more likely to get checked out when medical issues first arise, rather than wait until something become a medical emergency, which, because preventative care costs less than emergency treatment in the long run, would save the nation money. To make that vision a reality, one of the best things Obamacare did was make it illegal to be barred from getting an insurance plan because of a pre-existing condition.
While the Affordable Care Act may sound like a fairytale to some, it poses some major inconveniences, especially to the healthy. For example, 30.1 million people had private health insurance plans before Obamacare, each of which faces cancellation if it fails to meet the criteria prescribed by the Act. In addition, between 3-5 million people could potentially lose their company-sponsored plans, as Obamacare does not require companies with 50 or fewer employees to provide health insurance to their employees.
Still, while Obamacare has led to a short-term increase in insurance costs, it aims to save taxpayers over $143 billion over the next ten years. Plus, since about 4 million people would rather pay fines than get insured, their rate of penalty will continue to rise every year, until eventually it makes more financial sense for them to opt-in than remain uninsured, which will only further reduce prices.
What’s more, right now, there are over 20 million citizens insured under the Affordable Care Act, many of whom are Republicans that voted for Trump, which means that they voted for him to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Now, as details emerge about the newly proposed system, many Trump supporters are getting cold feet, as polls suggest their unhappiness with some of the new policies.
A large fraction of Trump supporters are older citizens or from rural areas, two demographics that have taken advantage of Obamacare for the last several years. While the plan certainly had its faults, and a desire to make amendments to it is perfectly reasonable, many Trump voters are finding the newer plan much more unsavory than its predecessor.
Reportedly, the Republican-proposed policy will remove coverage from millions of Americans, many of whom voted Republican, which comes as a bitter pill for the GOP’ers who called for change. They got what they asked for, but it turns out that it’s not what they wanted.