Sadly, the Affordable Health Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, is going to be one of those gifts that just keep giving. It’s rare in today’s world of a 24-hour news cycle to have an issue dominate two elections, but Obamacare has not only managed that but promises to be a key issue over the next several election cycles, too. Of course, the most obvious reason is that the law’s full implementation has been delayed now until after the 2016 election; many doubt that it ever will be fully implemented.
We were bombarded this week with numbers from both sides. There was jubilation and cries of vindication in President Obama’s speeches this week as he trumpeted the figure of 7.1 million people having signed up for Obamacare, thus meeting the administration’s announced goal of 7 million.
At the same time, however, critics dispute those figures and argue that the overwhelming majority of enrollees are those who lost their coverage as a result of Obamacare in the first place. The critics also argue that premiums for the majority of those who lost their health insurance due to Obamacare have risen dramatically. Obamacare proponents’ retort is that the increase is because Obamacare provides better coverage.
Meanwhile, nobody seems to know – except for those who lost their insurance – if the new enrollees in Obamacare are those who are highly subsidized, unhealthy, or were forced onto the marketplace by losing their company-provided health care.
A huge aspect of the law – the employer mandate – has been delayed once again, and we really won’t know how viable the program is from a pool and cost standpoint for a while yet. Will the government be able to lower costs, will the healthy and young sign up to make it viable?
Still the debate over numbers will continue because the answers won’t be certain for quite some time. This debate, however, distracts from the real issue. The polls that depict consumer disapproval over the inept rollout of the program are valid, but they distract from the real topic of what the program will cost. Anyone who believes that providing health care – and at higher levels of coverage – to those who couldn’t afford it or didn’t want it will result in lowering the costs of health care is simply defying logic. The question is whether the program’s benefits to society will outweigh the costs? And are the costs sustainable? It would have been nice to have known those numbers before the law was passed, but it appears that we won’t know those for at least a decade. Thus, the debate will rage on.
This whole issue has become as much political as it is about health care. In fact, fixing the health care crisis in this country has become almost a distant conversation. Obamacare is symbolic of differing world views and the clash between capitalism and socialism, statism and individual responsibility and liberty. As a result, both sides of the spectrum are vested in its success or failure, and that has become the focus instead of the results.
My prediction is that, in the end, Obamacare won’t solve the health problem or be the catastrophe its opponents want it to be. Instead, it will be election fodder for years to come, and both sides will have the numbers to prove their point.
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