Will Repealing Obamacare Ensure the Health of a Nation?

House votes to begin repealing Obamacare

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (Daily Kos)

By Andy Wang

The Progressive Teen Staff Writer

THE LANDMARK AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, OFTEN KNOWN COLLOQUIALLY AS “Obamacare,” has provided reasonably-priced healthcare to over 10 million Americans since the law’s enactment in March of 2010. Seen as one of the key achievements of the Obama administration, the ACA’s health insurance marketplace, found at healthcare.gov, allows tens of millions of Americans to compare plans from different providers and receive assistance. Other parts of the bill end discrimination based on gender or health status, make insurance more affordable by reducing premiums for families previously priced out of coverage, and extends Medicaid and CHIP. Yet, for some reason, President-elect Donald J. Trump has committed to a platform of dismantling the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.

Taken straight from Trump’s campaign website, Obamacare has “predictably resulted in runaway costs, websites that don’t work, greater rationing of care, higher premiums, less competition, and fewer choices.” Yet, the system is designed to result in the opposite, and its execution has indeed also provided cheaper and more reliable healthcare for more Americans than ever. Nevertheless, as one of the key platform positions of his campaign, Trump and Congressional Republicans alike have committed to the execution of Obamacare, at the expense of Americans in all 50 states.

Yet, even Republicans themselves cannot agree on the best method to establish a new system after the utter and complete repeal of Obamacare. Trump’s plan largely includes repealing the majority of the ACA and “replacing it essentially simultaneously.” While Speaker Paul Ryan is on board to also concurrently replacing while removing Obamacare, the fragmentation of the House Republicans effectively means that a replacement cannot come within the current deadline given by the budget resolution (currently January 27). Even with an amendment to the budget resolution extending that deadline until March 3, Republicans must use every second of the upcoming two months to decide on key issues that they have not been able to effectively implement in the last six years. Such an expedited schedule can only come at the expense of the average American benefiting from the plan.

Yet, even Republicans themselves cannot agree on the best method to establish a new system after the utter and complete repeal of Obamacare.

What’s come out so far hasn’t been promising. Tom Price, Trump’s current nominee for the Health and Human Services Secretary, has indeed provided a plan, the Empowering Patients First Act. Providing tax credits for health insurance, the plan does not look at income as a factor at all — a poverty stricken mother and a billionaire both receive the same $3,000 credit. It’s necessary to note that $3,000 in our day and age cannot buy any quality health insurance, save for emergency-only insurance that covers next to nothing. What consumers are to be scared of the most, though, is that Price’s plan notes that “qualified health insurance” is equivalent to “insurance that constitutes medical care,” something that Price would have the ability to regulate and classify as HHS secretary.

Yet, while the Republican Congress debates for an effective replacement, the repeal of Obamacare would have immediate implications for citizens of all walks of life. For Medicare, which protects seniors and disabled Americans, users would likely see higher premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing Obamacare would increase Medicare spending by over $800 billion over the next 10 years. Additionally, Medicare beneficiaries receive free preventative benefits, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease screening. Seeing the removal of this provision would ultimately lead to a long-term increase in costs for senior citizens on chronic diseases.

Yet, while the Republican Congress debates for an effective replacement, the repeal of Obamacare would have immediate implications for citizens of all walks of life.

The individual market, which has been the hallmark of Obamacare, would become an unregulated jungle zone again. Insurers would no longer have to cover people with pre-existing conditions and would be able to legally charge sick individuals more for the same coverage. A repeal would reintroduce the practice of insurance companies placing an annual or lifetime cap on benefits, devastating to chronically ill families.

Yet, the biggest issue with Obamacare’s repeal under the Trump administration just might be the fact that so many of his supporters will be left without the coverage that they have recently obtained. The Medicaid expansion in the deep-red state of Kentucky has led to the uninsured rate dropping from 20 percent in 2013 to 7.5 percent just two years later. For white people without a college degree and incomes under $36,000, a key demographic that voted for Trump this election cycle, the uninsured rate has dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to just 15 percent now. Essentially, those who benefit the most from the ACA are now seeing the reality of a President who is hell-bent on repealing it.

It’s fair that Republicans have not yet shown exactly what an Obamacare replacement looks like as of yet. But advocating for the rapid repeal and concurrent replacement in such a short timeline cannot be positive to the current beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. Under the few plans proposed so far, the “elimination of unfair fees” would actually result in higher levels of premiums across the board.

Perhaps, the best solution to this Obamacare “issue” may be advice that Republicans tend to cite time and time again: “if the wheel ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this case, “fixing” the quite unbroken wheel would be perilous for over 10 million Americans.

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