The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the most striking achievements of the Obama Administration. It ensures that everyone will receive some form of health insurance coverage and helps prevent discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
Obviously this law signals significant reform in the convoluted area of health care in the United States, but other than the aspects of the law that are championed by progressives, and the erroneous constitutional arguments against the law levied by conservatives, many consequences of the act have not entered the mainstream discussion in the country.
The ACA really does not address the rising cost of insurance, which is the core of the health care issue in the United States. Costs were rising between 6.5 percent and 9 percent per year between 2000 and 2010, while inflation was somewhere between 2-4 percent per year over the same time period. The United States also spends the most amount of money on healthcare compared to other industrialized countries, reaching 17.9 percent of GDP in 2011.
As a part of health care costs, the ACA patients will still have to go to doctors that are “in network,” risking their coverage if they do not go to an accepted hospital. Health insurance will still be managed by for-profit companies, which is another uniquely American approach compared to other industrialized countries. Finally, the law doesn’t address the issue of how health insurance is meant to treat patients after they get sick, and how it is not meant to be preventative for illnesses such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.
In most instances of ineffective legislation, it is symbolic because it represents a step in the right direction. This is true with the ACA for the few points I mentioned earlier, but ultimately the law adds to already prominent issues in the health care industry. Conditionality is a significant part of the law, resulting in an even more complicated system.
Currently, doctor’s offices have 25-35 minutes of paperwork for every hour of patient visits. After the ACA is fully implemented in 2014, the amount of bureaucratic work could increase by 10-15 minutes for each hour of patient visits. This seemingly small increase will result in millions of hours of extra paperwork, making the already lethargic health care process even worse.
Allowing people with pre-existing conditions and allowing dependents to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 are great steps in the direction of health care reform, but this bill is ultimately change for change’s sake. The achievements attained by this law are overshadowed by the insidious reinforcement of structural issues in the current healthcare system. To really change the system, a dramatic overhaul of the entire industry needs to occur, either through a public option or single-payer system, both of which were barely discussed when drafting this bill. The drafters of the ACA mean well, but for all intents and purposes it is a Band-Aid covering a wound that requires stitches.