Healthcare Reform: Seriously – WHAT IS IT?

As was stated in our last article, for most of the past year the topic of healthcare reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, has loomed large on people’s minds and in their conversations. To paraphrase an old line from The Simpsons, unless someone were “…Living on Mars, in a cave, with their eyes shut and their fingers in their ears,” they have heard of, and probably had questions about, healthcare reform. So, let’s turn on the lights, pull up a chair, and put it in the center of the table: What is “Healthcare Reform” and why did we need it?

imagesFirst, we need to point out that while there have been global changes in healthcare law in recent years; and we may well indeed have readers all over the world, it will specifically be the adoption of so-called “Obamacare” here in the United States which will be the focus of this article. And for good reason: Numerous studies, including one done in 2008 by the Commonwealth Fund, have shown that for a considerable time the financial costs of healthcare in the United States have been exponentially greater than those in other developed nations, while the quality had been markedly lower. Many Americans therefore found themselves either under-insured, or completely uninsured. In response to this, the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Just what is it, and what does it do? To make a very detailed subject simpler, this act contains laws which expand Medicaid coverage for more individuals who fall below the poverty line, subsidize premiums to help lower people’s out-of-pocket costs, prohibit the denial of coverage to someone based on existing health conditions, and it offers smaller businesses assistance in providing health insurance to their employees. In a nut-shell these new laws are intended to help all citizens to acquire quality, affordable healthcare insurance. There has been heated controversy and debate about whether or not these objectives have been met, but the reality is that more people in the United States are now ostensibly covered by some form of healthcare insurance than ever before.

There have been a number of problems, misconceptions, and outright fallacies regarding the new healthcare laws, however. Everything from fears of a mass influx of immigrants pouring into the US and overwhelming the system in a crush for ‘free’ healthcare, to the concept of faceless, clandestine “death panels” that would coldly determine who would receive insurance, and who would be “left to the wolves.” Most of these have proven to be glorified urban legend. However, there have been some actual issues which have proven quite vexing as they unfolded. One of which was that the official website where individuals could peruse new insurance options saw so much traffic that unexpected glitches, delays and crashes occurred. Soon enough, many individual states began to offer their own web portal, which alleviated the problem to a great extent. Another dilemma was that many Americans who already held their own insurance, such as through Anthem BCBS, learned that their programs did not meet some of the more nuanced requirements of the Reform Act; and were being discontinued. In most cases, however, similar programs were offered in their stead; or people were migrated to plans that did meet the parameters of the new law. At the end of the day, many individuals who were paying very high premiums and had very high deductibles were often able to lower both. In other cases it was a trade-off, with something of a ‘happy medium’ being reached somewhere in the middle. But in the end, those who wanted insurance have likely gotten some form of it.

To summarize the whole thing, “Obamacare” essentially has allowed millions of Americans who were uninsured due to prohibitive costs, or restrictions imposed by their health in the past, to change that. How smoothly and successfully the whole thing has gone is subject for others to debate. I would guarantee that there are yet a huge number of people who, for whatever reason, do not have insurance. Or have an excruciatingly high deductible. Or have simply settled for  “the lesser of all evils for the time being” just to be covered by something. While these topics fall way beyond the scope of this article, they might make for some  interesting follow ups… So: Tell us YOUR story. How has healthcare reform affected YOU?