By: Loyse Burki
Obamacare. It seems to be the word in the mouth of every politician, doctor, figure of authority, or even remotely educated individual. But what is Obamacare? Obamacare is another name for the Affordable Care Act. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, putting in place comprehensive reforms that facilitate access to affordable health coverage for everyone and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices. In terms that the average person can understand: the Affordable Care Act allows more people who previously could not afford insurance to obtain coverage, and for those who already have insurance to get a host of new benefits and protections. For example, Obamacare makes private insurance providers cover additional medical costs for women and children without raising the overall cost of the coverage. These newly covered medical costs included women’s wellness visits, mammograms, birth control for women, and immunization for kids. Also, young adults can now stay under their parents’ plan until the age of 26. In addition, there are no more lifetime limits on insurance coverage, meaning that insurance companies can’t limit the amount of care they will cover over their client’s lifetime. Moreover, insurance companies will now be held at a higher accountability than ever before.Furthermore, starting in January, it will be illegal for insurance companies to charge higher premiums or refuse coverage for people who get sick easily or have been ill in the past. Charging women more for the same coverage that men get will now also be made illegal.
Obamacare also boasts of having an easier application process in simple language for those who seek to obtain coverage under the ACA. For the people who do not have health insurance or buy coverage on their own, Obamacare offers the same benefits as for people already covered with private insurance. Starting on October 1st, HealthCare.gov began offerering an accessible online marketplace where anyone could browse the different insurance plans available in their area and sign up for one that matched their needs and budget. All of the plans available in the marketplace are required to cover a core set of essential health benefits. Doctor’s visits, emergency care, prescriptions, lab tests, rehabilitation for illness or injury, and mental health services all come standard. The application process has now been made easier and more accessible to everyone. There are four ways to apply: online, on the phone, in person, or by mail. The message that supporters of Obamacare want to send out, as a bottom line, is that the ACA offers new rights and protections that make coverage fair and easier to understand regardless of whether Americans are covered or not.
While everything the law promises sounds very good, most Republican lawmakers have accused the law of pushing unwanted changes on Americans who simply can’t afford health insurance. The Affordable Care Act has also been challenged on a legal basis by religious institutions, most notably, the Catholic Church, for being unconstitutional due to its requirement for insurance companies to cover contraception, and the requirement for religious institutions which oppose contraception to provide it under their plans.
However, Obamacare has had many shortcomings since its launch on October 1, 2013. One of Obamacare’s key promises was that everyone could keep their insurance plan if they were satisfied with it. However, this fall, millions of people received cancellation notices from their healthcare providers. In an attempt to fix this controversy, Obama announced that insurance companies could continue offering plans that would have been canceled under ObamaCare to their existing holders for an additional year. However, this “fix” caused additional controversy and problems. Another shortcoming of Obamacare that was made obvious from the morning of its launch was the glitchy website, HealthCare.gov. Servers crashed incessantly and glitchy code caused problems. Obamacare was also the main cause of the October 1st government shutdown, which in turn snowballed into problems in other areas of the government.
While Obamacare appears to be a fair and largely beneficial plan on the surface, it has caused many problems and unexpected delays for various groups. The initiative and ideas behind it are revolutionary, but clearly need to be revised and revamped to be made accessible and less problematic for the future.