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Horowitz: Obamacare; Going Strong on 5 Year Anniversary

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

 

Rob Horowitz

As we mark the 5 year anniversary of President Obama signing theAffordable Care Act into law this week, the strident predictions by its opponents that this law would wreck the American economy and destroy the health care system are proving to be as silly and exaggerated as they sounded at the time. In fact, despite some bumps along the way, this sweeping and comprehensive reform of our health care system, more popularly known as Obamacare, has already cut the number of uninsured Americans by nearly one-third and  contributed to a dramatic slowing of health care costs.

In a statement released this past weekend, President Obama said, “After five years of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained the security of health insurance – an achievement that has cut the ranks of the uninsured by nearly one third.  These aren’t just numbers. Because of this law, there are parents who can finally afford to take their kids to the doctor. There are families who no longer risk losing their home or savings just because someone gets sick. There are young people free to pursue their dreams and start their own business without worrying about losing access to healthcare. There are Americans who, without this law, would not be alive today.”

In addition to moving our nation substantially towards the goal of universal health insurance, Obamacare contains other important features. These include preventing insurance companies from denying insurance to people with pre-conditions; offering strong incentives for stepped-up primary care and preventive medicine; and putting in place needed cost-containment measures. Since the component of the new law that requires all health plans to cover preventive screenings, immunizations and well visits at low or no cost became operational in September 2010, an additional 76 million people are receiving preventive care, according to Dr. Kavita Patel and Domitilla Masi at the Engleberg Center for Health Reform. 

Americans still have mixed to negative views of Obamacare with 43% having an unfavorable opinion, as opposed to 41 percent who rate the law favorably, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.  And, as usually is the case with any large, sweeping reform, there have been some implementation problems.  The disastrous roll out of the national health exchange web site in 2013 remains the most prominent. However, this year’s tax season is bringing to light another issue that will require a fix or better communication.   People who end up earning more money than they estimated they would when they purchased health insurance under the law and failed to communicate this income increase to the health exchange are discovering when they file their tax returns that their subsidy will be retroactively reduced, resulting in either a smaller than expected tax refund or a bill for the difference. 

Still, all-in-all, Obamacare is making a significant positive difference in the lives of many Americans. Like it or not, it is here to stay.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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