I like Obamacare, and you should too

By Reily Connaughton

Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/MCT
Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Sean Recchi, a small business owner in Lancaster, Ohio, was forty two last year when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He and his wife, Stephanie panicked knowing that their $3,500 a month would not cover the expenses that would come with trying to treat his cancer. But another shock came soon after the tragic news that the family of four had endured. Their health insurance was only willing to pay $2,000 dollars of the near $85,000 that the MD Anderson Cancer Center was charging them in advance. The family was forced to max out their credit card and borrow money from family members. When Mr. Recchi needed his coverage the most, his insurance betrayed him. Why? Because even though the Recchi’s paid a burdensome $469 a month for what they thought was top notch health insurance, Mr. Recchi’s cancer was seen as a pre-existing condition. Enter Obamacare.

After Stephanie searched the Ohio marketplace, a perk of the Affordable Care Act where individual states can promote and personalize to directly help their residents, she found a plan that would not only cover her husband’s cancer-treatment but would reduce her monthly payment to a mere $17. Better coverage for a fraction of a fraction of the cost.

I’d like to make the point that I’m not writing today to rebut Mr. Herlitz and his article entitled “Nobody likes Obamacare.” I too believe that health policy in the United States is stuck in the mud and that the sheer enormity of the problem sometimes seems to belittle every other issue. But after a storm of hyperbolic misinformation following the open enrollment period in October, the real pieces of the law should be known and promoted.

To be clear, the law is not a panacea to every problem in a system so massive that it dwarfs the entire GDP of France. The reforms that Mr. Herlitz laid out (e.g., Medicare reimbursements, erasing state borders, etc.) are important, along with expanding the tax credit beyond its current low eligibility. But it is equally important to address the issues that the ACA fixes.

Split into three major parts, the law provides a patients’ bill of rights, quality healthcare to millions who couldn’t get it before and looks to curb the extremely dangerous rise in healthcare costs.

Under the patient protection piece of the law, more than 3 million young adults under 26 have been covered via their parents plan and nearly 7 million seniors pay less on prescription drugs because of the closing of the donut hole just a fraction of those who have been protected since the passage of the law.

The national marketplace, also known as Healthcare.gov and its state counterparts, is a system where insurance companies can reach out to millions of new costumers, while the consumer can search for the plan that best fits them. Germany and Switzerland have used similar means to lower the costs, improve the care, and reach out to cover every one of their citizens.

And lastly, of course, to address the skyrocketing costs of the health care system, Obamacare gives incentives for accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes, and hospitals to provide better, safer and more efficient care while creating value-based purchasing in Medicare, an excise tax on health plans that would mimic something like Mr. Recchi’s plan, and better information about treatment effectiveness to help everyone make informed decisions. And also invoking the individual and employer mandates that will save enrollees over a thousand dollars per year.

The individual mandate has received criticism for being too harsh on those who cannot afford to purchase a suitable plan. However, the Medicaid expansion would have solved the issue people that are too poor for a plan would receive Medicaid and those who are stuck in the grey between poverty and middle class-status would benefit from the subsidy that would lower the price. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the expansion must first be accepted by the states to be implemented. So, for political reasons, many struggling Americans, in states like Texas and Florida, will be stuck in between with no way to become covered. The Recchis, for instance, would have been kicked to the curb.

Here in Massachusetts we’ve been able to cover the majority of our citizens by enacting a law very similar to Obamacare far before 2010. And the Bay State also puts to rest many of the claims made by the opponents of health reform. Will the law cause business to cut back? No. In our state there was no appreciable impact of job growth, percentage of part time, or dropping coverage. Are the slow enrollment numbers signs that it is an imminent failure? No. Here we had 123 people sign up in the first month but 36,167 by the deadline. We’re proof that this law works, along with states like Kentucky and California who have fully implemented and worked out the kinks in the law.

Obamacare may be bad politics (although it shouldn’t be), but it is good policy. Not perfect, but once fully implemented, a huge step in the right direction.

Reily Connaughton is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].