Future of the Affordable Care Act: Is affordable health care possible?

Published on
March 1, 2017

The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. the ACA or Obamacare) was introduced in March 2010 and ever since day one, it has been labeled as a well-intentioned attempt to make healthcare accessible to the widest number of people, with a specific target on households with low incomes. The idea was good on paper as it aimed to assimilate the health care costs by offering different types of insurance packages. Another goal was to protect the patients from enormous medical bills and abusive practices by health insurance companies.

Today, it has been almost seven years since this health care reform act was signed by the former president Obama, which leads us to the following question: Were there any noticeable results?

According to the White House press release in March 2016, there definitely were: 17.6 million previously uninsured people got the coverage while health care costs have increased at the slowest rate in the past 50 years. For the first time in history, nearly 9 in 10 U.S. citizens have health insurance within a more transparent system and access to the necessary information regarding the programs and explanations for premium increases.

Out-of-pocket costs have been eliminated for preventive services (e.g. immunizations, certain cancer screenings, annual physicals, etc.) which bring less financial burden on patients. Before the Affordable Care Act, one had to pay for critical preventive services, such as flu shots, birth control, and check-ups. Now there are public health fairs and medical sites that offer free screenings, even free procedures, and operations such as the installing of the venous stent, or free medical consultations users had no access to before.

But does the fact that the ACA provides good coverage mean it’s actually affordable? 

Millions of people who gained insurance through the law truly got access to comprehensive and affordable health care. Around 85% of the participants in the program took advantage of federal subsidies that helped them pay their premiums. 

However, the law requires insurers to provide various care benefits and to ensure coverage for patients that have pre-existing conditions. This is why premiums rise for those who are already insured, regardless of their health condition which is a main reason consumers get discouraged from signing up for the program. The attempt of bringing equal care to everyone is not as linear as most would assume. In addition, prices vary within the states which is why it’s hard to estimate who will find the programs truly affordable. 

Experts say the Affordable Care Act needs more time to improve health outcomes. However, with the newly elected White House administration, citizens can expect a lot of changes in every field, health care included. The Republicans have set out to repeal Obamacare, with the main goal of lowering taxes. To some, this might seem as a praise-worthy decision but the truth is – these taxes are there for a reason. For example, the penalty tax for those who chose not to enroll in a health insurance plan is not just a way of filling in the government’s budget: it’s also a direct way of educating citizens about the importance of health insurance. 

The tragedy of the possible repeal of Obamacare lies in the following: there is not a clear replacement plan. The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect solution, but research shows it might be the best we currently have to rely on.