When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, it’s major objective was to get every American insured. “Obamacare” was aimed at creating health care equality for all by offering a variety of insurance policies – one that could be affordable for each and every American. In her speech this morning on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Secretary of Health and Health Services Kathleen Sebelius stated , “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” (Neff, 2014) Sebelius again was adamant on her support on the ACA; yet, even ignoring the ACA’s turbulent introductory phase, it still appears as if the policy may bring more harm than good.
A Wall Street Journal article today indicated that early reports show that the people signing up for new policies were the ones already covered before the ACA. A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. estimated that only 11% of new policies were being purchased by someone previously uninsured. (Weaver & Mathews, 2014) It is still very early in the sign-up process, but the low number is a serious red flag when considering the chances at achieving healthcare equality in the U.S. First, are Americans in poverty (Medicaid eligibility is set at 138% of the poverty line) getting information and the opportunity to sign-up for health insurance plans? Most signs point towards no. One comedic example is a recent Jimmy Kimmel segment. He went to the streets to expose many Americans who were in favor of the Affordable Care Act yet were opposed to “Obamacare.” (Obamacare is a common nickname for the ACA). But Americans aren’t all to blame for their confusion over the policy. Much can be pointed at the lack of transparency for the ACA, as the “condensed” version of the law is over 1,000 pages long and incomprehensible for the average American. As the details of law do become uncovered, it is becoming clear that providing health care equality to all Americans is not going to come without serious costs.
America’s middle class, initially expecting to benefit from “Obamacare,” have been hit the hardest. They are having to fund insurance subsidies for the poor through higher premiums and larger deductibles; paying for the “free lunch” of others while often struggling to pay their themselves.
“What is a surprise to some people are the higher insurance premiums that ordinary, middle class Americans suddenly face so that other ordinary Americans can enjoy lower prices.” (Dorfman, 2013)
Today, America is still facing the problem of health care inequality. For now, the uninsured for whom the ACA policy was meant for have yet to sign up, while the average American is seeing his health care premium increase while deductibles go up and coverage gets worse. I certainly hope the best is yet to come.
Dorfman, Jeffrey, “The High Costs of Obamacare Hit Home for the Middle Class,” Forbes. October 31, 2013. Link
Neff, Blake, “Sebelius makes MLK-themed ACA pitch,” The Hill. January 20, 2014. Link
Weaver, Christopher, and Anna Wilde Mathews, “Exchanges see Little Progress on Uninsured,” The Wall Street Journal. January 20, 2014. Link