The Politicker: New bill does not meet health care needs (Right Lens)
Since the passing of former President Barack Obama's health care law, there has been bipartisan criticism of it. The consensus was that although the bill made steps in the right direction, there were still many downsides.
The mandate that forced small businesses to provide insurance to all their employees once the business reached a certain size severely limited growth in the business space that most exemplifies the American Dream. The artificial lines that sequestered health care markets to individual states increased prices by limiting the market for insurance. The mandate that required every plan, even the cheapest, to have comprehensive coverage forced insurance companies to offer plans with low premiums but extremely high deductibles or else they would lose money.
With the individual mandate, working class individuals were forced to purchase coverage that they could never use because their medical expenses would never reach the high deductibles.
Despite these major downsides, there were very beneficial parts of the bill. Insurance for young adults, especially students, was extended so that they could be covered under their parent’s plan. This allowed young people to get a start in life without worrying about medical coverage. Those with preexisting conditions were protected. Subsidies were provided to those in need so they could receive preventative care that reduced their risk of hospitalization or serious illness, which strains the health care system.
However, despite these benefits, the downfalls could not be ignored. Premiums for certain individuals rose, others were forced to buy insurance they could not even use, small businesses were forced to limit their expansion and other individuals were not even able to keep their original doctor. It was clear for many moderates on the right and the left that the bill needed to be reformed.
Recently, a full repeal of "Obamacare" was politically impossible and practically irresponsible. The American Health Care Act was born and evolved into its current form. Although the rhetoric may influence public opinion of this bill, it is just the Affordable Care Act with some minor changes.
The new bill does make improvements from the Affordable Care Act. It eliminates the employer mandate, no longer forcing small businesses to purchase coverage, but it also eliminates the individual mandate, which may pose problems to the stability of the health care system. The AHCA also allows insurance companies to provide cheaper, less comprehensive plans so that working class people can not only afford the premiums but also afford the more reasonable deductibles. The bill still protects those with preexisting conditions, but allows insurance companies to charge these higher-risk individuals higher premiums. This could potentially provide more stability to the health care system in the long run.
The bill also replaces the low-income assistance of the ACA with an age-based tax credit. However, there are income caps for the assistance so it primarily assists working class and low income individuals. The AHCA also sets aside over $100 billion to a fund that will help states make health care more affordable. Although these provisions make progress, the AHCA still shifts the burden of the health care system from the young back to the old. One of the main ideas of the ACA was to utilize the health care payments from healthy youth to pay for the much higher medical bills of those middle aged and older. With the AHCA, there will be higher premiums for the elderly.
The AHCA is not perfect and will need to be modified in the future to ensure an effective health care system. There is one major political takeaway: if this bill passes, responsibility will be entirely on the Republicans. The Democrats can no longer be blamed.
Eric is a Public Affairs student who is active in the Baruch College Republicans. He recently founded a nonprofit, Doxa, to increase “debate, discourse and citizenship.”