Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Affordable Care Act: Some Thoughts

What is the ACA aka Obamacare?

We’ve all heard about the Affordable Care Act. Most people will know it as Obamacare.

Major media outlets are telling us it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But we know those talking heads are nothing more than sock puppets for the current administration. Political pundits, the opposition and doomsayers are telling us it’s another tax and is, of course, a harbinger of the apocalypse. Then again, those folks tend to think everything that happens is a sign of the end.

My opinion is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all that. But where? How can we know? For one thing, the legislation is entirely too big (11,000 pages) to tackle in a single-sitting, quick read article. Anyone who wishes to read the full text of the act may do so. The PDF Compilation of the “Health Related” portions of the act is 974 pages. (I have not read all of this and I have no plan to do so.)

Let’s take a “Five W” approach and just look at some of the facts.
What is the Affordable Care Act? How about the official line: The following comes from

The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with better health security by putting in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that will:

  • Expand coverage,
  • Hold insurance companies accountable,
  • Lower health care costs,
  • Guarantee more choice, and
  • Enhance the quality of care for all Americans.
Who is affected? The above says “all Americans.”  And, the above list really sounds like a great idea. But let’s put some questions at the end of those bullets:

Expand coverage, for whom? And what exactly does that mean, anyway? The government offers the website to answer those questions. And we’re all aware of the problems associated with with the rollout of the website. The $394 million website doesn’t work. Oh, they’re working on it, they’ve dragged in experts from some of the biggest names in networking to get the site up and running properly. And, as a bonus, Obama became the first president to hold a press conference because his website was down. They’re also offering online live chat, phone and mail-in sign up.

Hold insurance companies accountable, to whom? Insurance companies are in business to make money. If they’re not held accountable by their customers, then they shouldn't be in business very long.  Having the government prop them up isn't the answer to poor customer service.

Lower health care costs, for whom? Here’s something interesting; I’ve done a lot of research on this subject and nowhere do I see reductions in the actual cost of healthcare. There will be those who want to argue the semantics of this statement, but it does say exactly that: Lower Health Care Costs. That’s not happening. Healthcare costs are growing and there’s nothing in the works to lower them. The ACA solution is to help people pay for insurance. That doesn’t do anything to actually lower the cost of care; only to reduce what some people will have to pay. And, logically, if the government is picking up the tab for lowered payments, then we all know where the money is coming from. We who work and pay taxes are picking up the bill. It’s really a no-brainer. No, it’s not socialized medicine. In my opinion, socialized medicine would be much better.

Guarantee more choice. Why does that even need a guarantee? Think about that… We’re being forced to buy insurance. Our choices are already limited.

Enhance the quality of care for all Americans. This is a fine example of political doublespeak to try to sell something.

When does all this happen? According to Wikipedia, which has a well-written article on the act, “The ACA includes numerous provisions that take effect between 2010 and 2020. Policies issued before 2010 are exempted by a grandfather clause from many of the changes to insurance standards, but they are affected by other provisions. Significant reforms are to take effect by January 1, 2014.” (See the listing here.)

(Yes, I know Wikipedia is often not considered a legitimate source for journalistic research. I say it depends on what you’re researching. In this case, Wikipedia had the most comprehensive, readable, understandable and concise article I could find. The Wikipedia article carries a slight leaning toward the Obama camp, but not so much it sickened me. The majority of articles out there tend to be grossly pro-ACA or vehemently anti-Obamacare.)

Why is this necessary? First, it does take care of some gaps in coverage, such as companies denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. This is good. But was a complete overhaul of the U.S. healthcare establishment actually needed? When medical bills are the cause of nearly half the bankruptcy filings in the country? Yes. Is this the right way to go about it? No. Forcing people to buy insurance isn’t the solution. Socialized medicine would be a better solution. Please don’t misunderstand: My opinion is that a government-run healthcare system would be a fiscal disaster mired in bureaucratic quicksand and fraught with incompetence, cover-ups, scandals. (And I consider myself an optimist.) But it would still be better than forcing us to buy third-party insurance. While the British and Canadian models may have their problems, those populations, on the whole, have better healthcare than we do in the U.S.

Where does this end? In more deficit. And more government control of the lives of U. S. citizens. This video from Stormcloudsgathering takes a more fatalistic approach; but not necessarily an unrealistic view.

Is there a bottom line here? Nothing concrete. The Affordable Care Act will lower healthcare premium costs for some, increase it for others and generally make healthcare more available to the general population. That’s a good thing. In the bigger picture, however, the U.S. government says: You will have insurance, you will pay for it, and if you do not, we will fine you, garnish your wages or otherwise punish you for not doing things our way. The Affordable Care Act is about control. Like any legislation created by government: It only serves to take away rights and freedoms.

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