The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is a major piece of health care reform legislation passed during the administration of President Barack Obama. Health care was a serious wedge issue in the 2016 presidential election with eventual winner Donald Trump and several other Republican candidates promising an Obamacare repeal and some form of replacement law or program.
As frequently happens with government legislation, there are advantages, disadvantages, and unintended consequences resulting from the Affordable Care Act. The same is probably true of most Obamacare repeal efforts. Many politicians insist that their sides on this issue are right, but understanding the pros and cons for yourself can help you form your own opinion on this critical matter for our future.
Is An Obamacare Repeal On The Horizon?
Obamacare repeal has been attempted many times during the presidencies of both Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Between 2011 and 2014, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal or change the law more than 50 times. After the 2016 election, Republicans felt emboldened by their control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, and they set their sights on their promise to repeal the ACA. In 2017, Obamacare repeal was again attempted, but that effort failed as well.
Recently, the Health Care Freedom Act (also often called known the “skinny” repeal) was introduced by Republicans in Congress. This attempt to repeal Obamacare was ultimately thwarted by the late Republican Senator John McCain and two other Republican senators voting against the measure along with the Democrat minority.
Although Obamacare repeal has not happened yet, the legislation has been weakened and portions of it have been removed in the past few years. For example, the individual and employer mandates have been removed. The employer mandate required that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance coverage for their employees.
Even with this mandate, some employers chose to pay fines, which were levied as an additional tax, rather than offer coverage to their employees. With the mandate lifted, fewer employers are required to offer health insurance coverage. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repealed the tax penalty imposed by the ACA on people who do not carry health insurance. This change to the law takes effect in 2019.
The Future Of The ACA
Because health care has been used as a wedge issue for at least the last several election cycles, the foreseeable future of the Affordable Care Act could well depend on the outcomes of the 2018 midterm election. There has been a lot of speculation in the media, among elected officials, and around dinner tables, about whether the Democrats can take the House, Senate, or even both in 2018
If Democrats win a majority of seats in one or both houses, Obamacare repeal becomes much less likely to happen. If Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, Obamacare repeal is still an uphill battle that may or may not succeed. Even with control of the House, Senate, and White House, they have been unable to get the votes necessary for repeal, largely due to the mobilization of voters concerned about the loss of key provisions of the ACA.
President Donald Trump has recently supported the idea of introducing cheaper alternatives to the plans offered through the ACA marketplace. These are short-term plans that provide coverage for one year, and they are then extendable for up to three years. Although these plans are cheaper, they are not required to cover pre-existing conditions or provide several other core benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Pros And Cons Of Repeal
There are many opinions regarding Obamacare repeal, even outside the usual terrain for political debate. Generally, healthcare providers favor keeping the legislation because more individuals carrying health insurance reduces the losses incurred providing care to uninsured patients. Individual opinions expressed by people with different political affiliations, allegiances, and values vary widely on whether Obamacare repeal is a good or bad idea.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of The ACA
Pros Of Obamacare
Cons Of Obamacare
Weighing The Pros And Cons Of Obamacare Repeal
While there are certainly flaws in the system, simply repealing the ACA is not likely to happen and would cause its own problems. Like the legislation itself, there are advantages and disadvantages to Obamacare repeal. Whether repeal is considered a positive or negative event depends on people’s unique life situations.
For many people, Obamacare has been a positive change, with many more people enjoying access to healthcare. However, the legislation has not been beneficial for everyone. While many were able to get insurance for the first time, millions of other people actually lost insurance when the Affordable Care Act was implemented. Some employers decided it was cheaper to let their employees buy their own insurance on the ACA marketplace exchanges and pay the tax penalties they incurred for not providing it.
Tens of millions more reportedly lost their private health insurance plans. These were mainly cut-rate plans that did not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The legislation requires that insurance policies provide 10 essential benefits, free preventative care, and cover pre-existing conditions. Some plans offered at that time were removed from the market because the insurers chose not to meet the standards of the law.
Obamacare Repeal: What About The Pros?
When those tens of millions lost their existing insurance plans, they often had to purchase higher-priced plans that meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act. Repealing Obamacare would allow people who choose to purchase lower-cost plans with fewer medical benefits to find and sign up for those plans.
The Affordable Care Act contains a requirement for businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance benefits to their employees. This increases the cost of doing business for some small businesses even though there are tax credits in place to defray these costs. Some small-business owners and many politicians have claimed that this requirement places an undue burden on businesses, ultimately restraining economic growth.
Similarly, without the individual mandate and tax penalties for not having health insurance, many people could drop their health insurance and save the cost of the premium. It is estimated that millions will leave the insurance market beginning in 2019. Although this has often been cited as a reason for repeal, it is important not to forget that this would dramatically increase the number of uninsured people across the U.S.
Why Choose Not To Repeal Obamacare?
Obamacare repeal would be negative for anyone currently benefitting from the key provisions in this legislation. Health care costs would increase and overall healthiness could decrease in the U.S. if patients no longer received the 10 essential benefits or free preventative care. These provisions make it possible for patients to get treatment early, which helps them stay well and detect problems early.
Outright repeal of the ACA would be disastrous for many individuals with pre-existing conditions who cannot be discriminated against for insurability under the ACA. If the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions is eliminated, people would be at risk of losing their current health insurance. Prices could skyrocket, making it impossible for some to afford any health insurance at all.
Other sectors that may be harmed by the repeal of Obamacare may include college students, self-employed people, and families currently benefiting from the subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act.
Potential Consequences Of Repealing The ACA
Regardless of public opinion about the ACA, repealing the legislation would have many consequences. Coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions is the most popular provision in the legislation. Prior to the passage of the ACA, many with pre-existing conditions were either denied coverage or offered insurance only at exorbitant rates.
Before the ACA, health insurance companies routinely denied coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Countless others were dropped by their insurance companies when they developed a costly health condition, despite years of paying premiums to the companies. Obamacare requires that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Obamacare repeal may lead to millions more dropping their health insurance plans due to rising costs. This decision would leave them without coverage and vulnerable in the event of an accident, injury, or illness that requires medical treatment.
The Affordable Care Act allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26. Repeal of the legislation would mean that many college students would lose their health insurance. Prior to Obamacare, most kids became ineligible from their parents’ health insurance plans when they turned 18 years old. This creates difficulty for young people who have not completed school and do not yet have full-time jobs with health insurance benefits.
Many low and moderate-income families were able to afford health insurance under the ACA due to the subsidies. Without these subsidies, such families might once again be unable to afford health insurance premiums. The cost-reducing benefits provided by having more people insured would be lost, as many would go back to seeking emergency treatment at a hospital as their only source of health care.
There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the provisions of Obamacare. This legislation, like the challenges facing the healthcare industry, is complex. There are pros and cons associated with both the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare repeal efforts. Understanding the provisions of the legislation, along with the advantages, disadvantages, and unintended consequences of a potential repeal, are all part of being fully informed on this crucial issue. You can then move forward to make informed voting decisions and communicate your wishes to elected officials as well.