On June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court made a monumental 5-4 decision: they upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. Because of their approval, various portions of the Act went into effect and it will be law in its entirety by January 1, 2020. ObamaCare has been a hotly contested issue with passions running high on both ends of the spectrum. When broken down, what are the pros and cons of this act, the largest government expansion in the United States health care system since 1965?
One of the pros of ObamaCare is the simple fact that more Americans will be insured. For instance, young adults under age 26 can be kept on their parent’s insurance plans. This is helpful because many people in this demographic are working or attending school and may not be able to pay for their own health benefits. ObamaCare will expand coverage in other ways as well. In the current system, people with pre-existing conditions can be denied insurance and customers who are insured but become sick can have their coverage dropped. Starting in 2014, these practices will not be allowed under ObamaCare. In addition, the plan aims to make healthcare affordable for Americans who simply do not have the money to afford healthcare. The Congressional Budget Office’s report cites economic advantages to ObamaCare, namely a decrease in the budget deficit. According to the report, ObamaCare will promote preventative medicine. This is beneficial economically because many who are uninsured wait until problems are so severe they must visit the Emergency Room, which is a very costly way to get treatment. If insured citizens take more advantage of preventative and not emergency medicine, it is believed that the overall costs of health care for the nation will go down. The Congressional Budget Office’s report estimates that $143 billion dollars between 2010 and 2019 will be saved. Still other pros include the requirements that dictate that premiums be spent on healthcare, not administrative costs. Another pro is that insurance companies will be required to publicly justify rate increases that are deemed unreasonable.
Despite these positives, the opposition to ObamaCare has been vocal in citing the cons, many dealing with the taxes associated with the act. Citizens who do not purchase health insurance will be taxed $95 then $325 then $695 in 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively. In addition, around one million individuals will have their taxes raised substantially and all or part of net investment income will be subject to a 3.8% Medicare contribution tax. A tax will also be levied on manufacturers of medical devices and importers, and this 2.3% excise tax might discourage businesses from hiring new employees. Also, many politicians and economists do not support the act because it will add tremendous amounts to an already staggering national debt. Concerning employees and the economy, it is estimated that 3-5 million people could lose their company-sponsored healthcare. This is because many businesses will find it more cost-effective to simply pay the fines associated with noncompliance, leaving their employees to find insurance on their own. Medical disadvantages to this program have also been cited. For instance, the closing of the Medicare “donut hole” will result in $84.8 billion in fees over the next decade that are to be paid by pharmaceutical companies. These excessive fines could result in increased drug costs. Another medical con for ObamaCare comes from a study performed by the National Monitor. Their report states that ObamaCare, combined with the aging population in our country, could lead to a shortage of over 50,000 primary care doctors by 2025. This shortage could, in turn, leave millions of Americans without a doctor or access to healthcare. In addition to this possible shortage, physicians are estimated to have a tremendous increase in visits by 2025, adding further strain on the system.
The passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has certainly been one of the biggest moments of the Obama administration, and it is a monumental law concerning healthcare. While there are positives and negatives, only time will tell how full implementation will affect the economy and medical sector of the United States.