Writing Prompt: Discuss and Defend Your Position on the Affordable Care Act in 900 Words
It would be an understatement to say that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has been a controversial issue since its passage in 2010. After Obamacare was passed into law, a group of states challenged it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court ruled that the law was constitutional in 2012, House Republicans upped the ante in 2013 by shutting down the government in a failed effort to defund the law.
In the years and months leading up to the implementation of Obamacare, much of the political criticism lodged at Obamacare was just that: political. We heard the infamous quote from Sarah Palin that Obama’s “death panel” would decide if her baby with Down Syndrome was worthy of healthcare. We heard Obamacare was a “job killer.” We heard Obamacare would put a “bureaucrat between you and your doctor,” and raise health insurance premiums for all Americans. None of which was true. In fact, specific, logical, evidence-based arguments against the substantive policies found in the Affordable Care Act have been few and far between, and when we do hear one, it sure doesn’t come from politicians. That shouldn’t be surprising, though: inside the ridiculous arena that is American politics, all that seems to matter to the participants is who “wins” or “loses,” not whose policies are more beneficial to the American people.
Of course, things changed on October 1st, 2013, the day that a key component of Obamacare was rolled out: an online marketplace of health insurance plans. Seemingly every day since, Obamacare has been under fire for the flawed, faulty website. For users, it has been the opposite of the Amazon.com shopping experience. Furthermore, it recently became apparent that one of President Obama’s promises, that “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it,” was not entirely true. The resulting backlash forced President Obama to eventually apologize.
Now, President Obama’s signature healthcare law is as controversial as ever. Both parties and seemingly all media outlets are united in their criticism of the website, although its glitches are allegedly fixed now. Critics of Obamacare have held up the faulty website as proof that the healthcare law is disastrous for Americans and should be repealed. Some Obamacare supporters seem to have switched positions, or are wavering from their previously held belief in the sweeping healthcare law. The question is, should they?
In short, my answer is no. The problems from the past few months have stemmed from the implementation of Obamacare, not the substance of the law itself. And while improved implementation is absolutely necessary in order for the law to be successful, a bad website does not equal bad underlying policy. The old saying, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” feels applicable here. Revamp the website. Get it fixed. But don’t scrap the underlying law, the meat of which hasn’t even taken effect yet.
It’s easy to be a critic of Obamacare right now. It’s much harder to propose a reasonable alternative solution. And in case we’ve forgotten, American healthcare is in dire need of reform. It’s the most expensive healthcare system in the world by leaps and bounds, and yet, relative to other developed countries, it is not very effective (with the exception of cancer treatment). Among its many deleterious effects, expensive healthcare means employers spend less on wages and more on employee health insurance. Furthermore, prior to Obamacare, America’s healthcare system left millions of people uninsured, either because they could not afford insurance or because insurance companies denied them coverage due to preexisting conditions.
Of course, the two problems are intertwined. In order to obtain healthcare, uninsured people simply go to the emergency room (ER) for treatment. ER treatment is expensive, and when those uninsured patients inevitably can’t pay, the costs are passed on to patients who do have insurance. This phenomenon is so prevalent that at one Minnesota hospital, some uninsured patients were returning to the ER over 20 times per month, causing the hospital to launch a program where they send paramedics on house calls.
The provisions of Obamacare aim to solve those problems through the so-called “individual mandate.” The individual mandate should greatly reduce the number of people using the ER for primary care treatment, thus reducing the overall cost of healthcare. As healthcare costs go down, so should the cost of health insurance. Obamacare aims to reduce our nation’s outrageous healthcare expenditures over time. There are no quick and easy solutions here. Thus, while the poor implementation has created unwelcome uncertainty, I still support Obamacare and the policies found within it.
It’s true that Obamacare’s online health exchange has been poorly implemented, and one of President Obama’s promises has proven false. Those facts certainly bother me, but if I agreed with the healthcare overhaul in the first place, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to change my mind based on a flawed website launch and a broken promise that ultimately means some Americans will have to go with different insurance as opposed to no insurance. American healthcare reform is an incredibly complicated issue, and it would be naïve to expect a perfect implementation of the most sweeping healthcare reform in our nation’s history. Sure, it’s not the coveted Amazon.com shopping experience yet, but we’re not just buying a book, either.