Reflecting on the last breath of a healthcare plan


Republicans everywhere are rejoicing as they pull out their pens, eager to sign the death certificate for the Affordable Care Act.

As Congress gloats about repealing the healthcare plan commonly known as Obamacare, it would be wise for everyone to take stock in what it has accomplished – both good and bad – over the last eight years as well as consider expectations of what comes next.

It is also important to give the plan some context before everyone gets too wrapped up in the new plan that has yet to materialize.

As news is shared about the coming changes to healthcare many are beginning to fret about the future of their benefits. Republicans, who finally have the votes needed to repeal it and an incoming president they assume will not veto it, are eager to rip the Band-Aid off and move on. Dealing with the consequences is clearly something everyone is ready to do in the aftermath.

One fact is obvious, no matter how much they despise it, many Americans are not really even sure what Obamacare is. A recent poll was very telling as many respondents claimed they supported keeping the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while repealing Obamacare. The country is rallying behind changing a program it truly doesn’t understand.

Republicans promise a better alternative, but in eight years, the party has managed to vote –in what has amounted to a ceremonial act – to repeal the act more than 50 times. The party has not once offered details of a proposed plan to replace it. Immediately after the election, Republicans vowed that the repeal was the first item on the new agenda, with no regard for a replacement. They have since promised to have an alternative ready, but have shared nothing.

The ACA is certainly not perfect. Depending on what one believes a healthcare plan should accomplish, it could be seen as a disaster or a lifesaver. But many of the claims about its failures are based on a false premise that America was in a good place with its healthcare before the act was passed.

Have insurance premiums gone up under the ACA? Yes. In fact, family annual premiums have gone up an average of $4,154 in six years under the ACA. That is an outrageous amount, but the statistic is cited by Republicans with no context, in an effort to sell Americans on the horrors of the program.

That rate of increase is actually less than the increase in the six years prior to the passage of the ACA, which was $4,677.

The starting point for the American discussion of our healthcare funding crisis should be that between 2002 and 2014, family premiums increased nearly $9,000. Is that acceptable? Can we continue to pay more and more for health insurance as the coverage itself gets worse and worse? These are problems with our priorities and what we allow these industries to get away with.

Americans don’t like to be told they must do or buy things, but we demand everyone buys liability auto insurance. Why? We want people to pay their way and be accountable. No health plan has ever demanded accountability like this one.

The ACA helped millions of Americans with preexisting conditions access insurance. It allowed younger Americans the chance to be covered longer and eliminate the issue of affordability for college students or those just starting out on their own. It subsidized coverage for those who had never been able to afford it before.

Are we going to go back to the scenario where those who can afford it pay for the care of all those who can’t, allowing them to pay nothing again?

In December, the notice came to renew my daughter’s policy, which was purchased through the exchange. It let me know the company would be happy to renew the policy. The premium was only scheduled to go up 46 percent. None of the deductibles, out of pocket maximums, coverages or benefits changed, just the premium. There is no conceivable reason a premium should jump that much. Has anyone heard of insurance companies losing money or being less profitable?

Americans are being gouged at every turn by an industry that should be focused on nothing more than quality of life and good health. Instead, this industry is being run like all others in America, focused only on the bottom line and earning an extra buck.

No matter what the plan, until Americans remove the capitalist tag of profits driving all things in healthcare, we should not expect to have quality care anyone can afford. It is easy to shrug it off until it is needed; most Americans do just that. But find a family crippled by bankrupting medical bills and you see a different reality.

The ACA may disappear, but take note of where we are today in terms of healthcare – quality and affordability – and be willing to do an honest assessment of where we end up in the years to come before passing judgment on the current plan. For the sake of all Americans, we have to hope Republicans are right, even without a plan.