Health care insurance — specifically whether it should be universal, or available without a financial burden for all US citizens, or not — is one of the key issues of the 2016 presidential election. The same can be said about the 2012 and 2008 elections, as well as elections dating back even further than that.
The ever-rising costs of health care continue to be a dividing issue in the country. For the most part, people agree that everyone should have access to the medical care they require. The divisive argument comes over who the responsibility of providing that health care should fall to: the government or the individual.
Should the government create conditions where every person can afford health care, or eliminate the cost of health care insurance completely? Or should we regress to survival of the fittest, and only allow those who can provide for themselves access to health care?
It’s a complicated discussion, and the argument is most likely to rage on. For now, the US does not have a universal health care system. But under the current presidential administration, there were some drastic changes to the nature of health care and health care insurance in America. You may know these changes as “Obamacare,” which people commonly refer to them as.
More formally though, these changes are known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This act was approved as law by President Barack Obama — hence the cute name — on March 23, 2010, and, despite nonstop fighting and resistance from political opponents, has managed to make some tangible changes to health care.
The legality of this act under the constitution was the main point of debate from its detractors, but on June 28, 2012, this conversation was effectively ended by the Supreme Court. The highest law in the land approved the primary tenants of the act, but with a caveat: the states would have a choice in whether they adopted the act’s new standards and practices.
The Affordable Care Act is widely considered the most significant change to the American health care industry in almost 50 years, specifically since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The intention of this act was to lower the amount of uninsured citizens by making health care more accessible for people of all incomes around the nation, to increase the quality of health care, and to reduce the health care expenses of US citizens, as well as the government.
Whether it was successful in achieving its goals is still up for debate. Here are some pros and cons of the program as we enter year 4 of “Obamacare.”
PRO: More Reasonable Costs for the Individual
While the Affordable Care Act has proven to lessen health care costs for the individual, it hasn’t been as effective as one could have hoped. Essentially, costs have not yet started to decrease in any substantial manner. Health care costs, which traditionally increase by at least 10 percent yearly, have merely stopped increasing by as much. Health care costs between 2014 and 2015 were estimated to have increased by around 8 percent.
PRO: Reduce the Federal Deficit
One of Obama’s explicit and repeated promises about the Affordable Care Act was that its implementation would decrease the federal deficit. According to the plan, these health care changes will decrease the federal deficit by around 200 billion dollars in its first decade, and upwards of 1 trillion dollars in its second decade. This would be a huge benefit to America’s debt that has been plaguing us for so long. But the Republican opposition is skeptical of the validity of these claims.
PRO: Improved Access to Health Insurance
The Affordable Care Act has brought health care insurance to more than 16 million previously uninsured Americans so far. Only more are set to gain health care coverage over the coming years.
PRO: Coverage of Preexisting Conditions
One of the biggest challenges consumers have had when trying to enroll in health care coverage was the limiting restrictions on preexisting conditions. Anyone with a preexisting condition, which could include obesity, diabetes, cancer, or even pregnancy, attempting to get a new health care insurance policy was out of luck, and would either be denied coverage altogether or be charged a premium making coverage unaffordable.
But people with preexisting conditions are likely the ones who need health care the most. It is no longer legal for health insurance companies to deny potential clients coverage based on preexisting conditions, a huge step forward for both accessibility and quality in the health care industry.
CON: Difficult Enrollment Process
Public sentiment seems to be against the Affordable Care Act. This might be due to a successful marketing campaign by its opponents, but it also has a lot to do with the disastrous launch process.
The website for enrollment failed horribly, and led to frustrated and confused customers. Even with these kinks ironed out, the enrollment process is still overly confusing. This is an unfortunate look for a program which featured a foundational goal of increasing access to health care.
A lot of health care institutions have gone as far as to implement their own programs specifically for assisting people in their Affordable Care Act enrollment. It shouldn’t fall on the health care providers to help people get coverage under this program.
CON: Higher Premiums
Some of the changes under the Affordable Care Act that led to rises in quality of health care also led to an unfortunate but inevitable side effect. There was an obvious reason these health care companies weren’t covering preexisting conditions and denying some people of health care. It would have cost them money. Having more comprehensive health care coverage leads to higher expenses for the insurance companies, which ultimately leads to more expenses for the consumer, on average.
CON: Insurance is a Requirement
Instead of health care insurance being a figurative requirement, because you can’t get medical attention without it, it is now a literal requirement. The terms vary based on your situation, but if you don’t have insurance under the Affordable Care Act you could be privy to a fine. The fine is currently pretty low, but is expected to increase over time. This is a huge negative for people who simply still can’t afford health care, even under the Affordable Care Act.