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Brief #110 – Health and Gender Policy

ObamaCare Lives for Another Day

By S. Bhimji

June 19, 2021

 

Policy Summary 

Healthcare is the one topic that concerns all Americans, irrespective of their political affiliation. For the past 40 years, the privileged Americans with private medical insurance have received first-rate healthcare from the top medical institutions in the country. For the poor or employed, it has been Medicaid, which is a lower-tiered insurance coverage policy with many restrictions. 

Just twenty years ago, health care expenditure accounted for nearly 16.5% of the GDP and the US was spending more money on healthcare than any other industrialized country. Yet despite the enormous amounts of money, Americans still have a slightly lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than other countries, which spend a lot less money.

To overcome the disparity in healthcare access, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. Obamacare is the most comprehensive reform of the U.S. healthcare system in the last 50 years.

The ACA has now made healthcare a right for all Americans and has transformed the lives of people with no health insurance. More importantly, the ACA has mandated that the majority of Americans must now have health insurance if they can afford it. Besides expanding the pool of people with insurance, the ACA also subsidizes private healthcare insurance plans, has raised revenues by introducing several new taxes, and has reorganized spending of government money on healthcare. 

The core function of the ACA has been to expand healthcare coverage for the previously 40-60 million Americans who had no prior health insurance plan 

So one would think that Obamacare is a good thing for Americans? 

Analysis 

For the past decade, the Republicans have tried numerous times to dismantle Obamacare by claiming it was the reason for high unemployment since employers could not afford to provide mandatory healthcare for all their employees. In addition, they claimed that the premiums were exorbitantly high and unaffordable by most Americans.

Ex-President Trump had vowed to get rid of Obamacare citing it was not effective. Finally yesterday the US Supreme Court rejected this last effort by the Republicans to dismantle ACA. The 7-2 ruling was the third time the US Supreme Court has rebuffed the Republican opposition to Obamacare, but what is more painful for the GOP was that the decision was made by a bench dominated by conservative justices of whom three were appointed by ex-President Trump.

What this means is that Republicans need to look beyond the legal system if they want to change the nation’s healthcare system.

So what happens now?

Despite the continued opposition by Republicans, it appears that at least for now Obamacare is safe. The one key feature that has helped Democrats grasp on to Obamacare is that it continues to deliver healthcare to more than 30 million poor Americans, which ensures that every single person has some type of healthcare. 

After hearing the US Supreme Court decision President Biden remarked,  “The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. It’s not as sacred or popular as Medicare or Medicaid, but it’s here to stay.” 

Overall, most Americans have gained from Obamacare either due to the expansion of Medicaid for the poor or federal subsidies that help offset costs for many others.

Public opinion polls over the past few years reveal that nearly 54% of Americans are happy with Obamacare, with less than 35% showing signs of disapproval. For republicans, it looks like they will now have to look for another ‘whipping boy’ if they plan to offset public opinion about the Democrats. Republicans need to start focusing on healthcare issues that Americans care about and promoting innovations rather than remain fixated on repealing Obamacare.

Engagement Resources 

ACA. https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-care-act/

What is the Affordable Care Act? https://www.hhs.gov/answers/affordable-care-act/what-is-the-affordable-care-act/index.html

New, lower costs are here! Find health coverage now. https://www.healthcare.gov/

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