The Future of the Affordable Care Act

Jacki Turet ’16 

            This is the week that President Obama’s controversial health care reform plan, the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) –more commonly know as Obamacare- will be set into action.  The unprecedented Affordable Care Act will fundamentally reform the way health insurance companies function.  First and foremost, all Americans are now required to purchase or apply for health insurance of some sort.  For many this will mean a private health care package, while for others it may mean qualifying for discounted health insurance through programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The goal of this act (a work-in-progress since being signed into law by President Obama three years ago) is to provide health insurance for the estimated 44 million Americans who do not currently have any coverage. This is achieved by monitoring and standardizing the health insurance industry. Like any bill, act, or push for reform that has ever passed through Congress, the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, has and will continue to have numerous unintended consequences and implications for the American people and their government.

            The New York Times gives some examples of those who lie in the gray area, those who may fall between the cracks of Obamacare.  Without guidance, it would be difficult to consider a plethora of questions in order to decide if Obamacare makes sense in a specific context.  For example, in the words of The New York Times:  “Are the new plans less expensive or more generous than existing ones? How do premiums and out-of-pocket costs compare? Are the networks of doctors and hospitals the most desirable? Who qualifies for how much of a subsidy, and what is the tax penalty for a miscalculation?”  The article profiles specific examples in which the costs and benefits are not always cut and dry.  It discusses individuals who are young and healthy, yet living from paycheck-to-paycheck; those who already have incurred huge medical bills/debts; and those who need extensive drug coverage. It is important to note that Obamacare may include options with higher deductibles. 

            CBS News describes the intention behind Obamacare as well as the snags that have been encountered thus far in the process. According to CBS simply getting the Affordable Care Act passed was enough of a feat as the original bill had to be modified, diluted, and cut down just to be even considered by the Republican-dominated congress.  On Tuesday, October 1st, online state-based health insurance exchanges went live.  This means that the American people and their employers, for the first time in US history, are able to bargain shop for insurance coverage and have the ability to qualify for tax credits, which will be visible on these online exchanges.  One of the glitches faced during these initial stages is the exchange websites’ inability to handle the high volume of customers that have tried to access the pages within a small period of time.  CBS News points out that only the English-language marketplaces are up and running. There will be a few weeks of a delay until Spanish-speaking citizens can access the same sites in their primary language.  Further still, not all states are ready to open their small business exchanges online to the public.

            President Obama must contend with the consistently negative approval ratings for his new health care plan and the ongoing protests and controversy it has caused in Congress.  He still continues to have faith that after actually experiencing Obamacare, the American people will come around.  Many people are simply misinformed when it comes to Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, the two being one and the same.  “Obamacare” has become a term with incredibly negative connotations, whereas the term theAffordable Care Act does not seem to carry the same implications.  Obamacare will probably go down in history as a large determining factor as to how we will look back on Obama’s time in office. In all of this one thing is certain, all we can do for now is wait.