The Elephant In The Room: What To Do About Obamacare

I guess we can call it the big donkey in the room since it was the Dems that passed the Affordable Care Act, the signature piece of legislation crafted by the Obama administration that had Democrats cheering and Republicans outraged.

A major promise during his '08 campaign, Barack Obama vowed to provide affordable health care to the millions of Americans who had trouble acquiring it for themselves and their families. And let's be honest, health care is extraordinarily expensive. Even a short session at a doctor's office can cost hundreds. If you're unlucky enough to have to spend a few hours in a hospital, you'll be receiving a bill in the tens of thousands. It's even worse if you have surgery and stick around for a few days.

That's not to mention the many, many Americans who require some form of medication or another. Some drugs are charged per pill, with prices going through the roof.

But rather than confront the reasons medical care is so expensive (i.e. corrupt companies, hospitals, and medical systems) Obamacare seemed to punish both patients and health insurance companies.

Right off the bat Americans were concerned over the mandate that everyone had to buy health insurance or face penalties come tax time. Wasn't this bill supposed to provide affordable insurance? But now if we can't find any, we get punished by the government. It was a terrible solution to the "no pre-existing conditions" part of the law, that prevented health insurance companies from denying coverage to an already sick customer.

I remember when the law was passed in 2010. The next day after the news hit I got a letter from my health care provider (which I got through my full-time job), that my rates were going up by 100% the next year. Immediately. Before the law even went into effect, my insurance doubled. That was only tremors of the trouble to come.

Since then the cost of Obamacare has skyrocketed. Premiums have gone up this the last year by around 22% nationwide. Arizona was hit pretty hard, with costs surging above 110%. This was caused by a number of factors, including the mass exodus of insurance companies from the plan, when they realized they were losing cash hand over fist.

Nearly a third of the country could have just a single company offering plans on their Obamacare exchange next year, according to an analysis this week that says the exodus of big players such as UnitedHealth and Aetna is denting the health law...

“This is only the beginning. Obamacare is killing competition and that means lousy choices and awful premiums for American families,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican who sounded early alarms about the lack of choices under Obamacare. (via The Washington Times)

Some have speculated that this was Obama and the Democrats' plan all along, to introduce a terrible health insurance system so that Americans would get so frustrated, that their only solution would be to embrace a completely Socialist single-payer health care system.

I don't buy into that. If the Democrats were that prescient- that apt at predicting and shaping the future- then maybe they would have handled the 2016 Election better.

If you look at the process of drafting the bill and the overall controversy it produced, you can't say this law was crafted by masterminds:

The bill was so sloppily crafted that Democrats were basically signing blank sheets of paper when they rushed it through Congress in a foul-smelling cloud of back-room deals... The Supreme Court rewrote ObamaCare on the fly twice to keep it alive, which is a scandal in and of itself. President Obama delayed and rewrote the law so often it was impossible to keep track of the changes, cutting Congress out of the loop completely. (via Breitbart)

I don't know if you benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, but few people I know or interact with are happy with it. It has become so unpopular among Americans, that Donald Trump made repealing it one of his biggest promises during the election.

It was one of those issues Hillary Clinton could not combat. She couldn't tap into American's disgust for the law, because it would betray Obama. But embracing it would hurt her with the millions of Americans sick of Obamacare. It was one of the chief feathers in Trump's cap, perhaps the single most important issue that swept him into office.

Once Inaugurated, the first executive order Trump signed was against Obamacare.

Trump says in the order that he will be seeking “prompt repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. Pending full repeal, however, he will “take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act.” He also says the executive order will give individual states “more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market.” (via Breitbart)

During the transition period, we heard that Vice-president Mike Pence and GOP lawmakers were hard at work drafting new legislation that would clear away the burning wreckage that is Obamacare. Right now there are several potential alternatives that could erase President Obama's lasting legacy in the country.

At last night's Joint Session of Congress, Donald Trump laid out the main objectives his administration would focus on in his goal of replacing Obamacare. Most of them aren't so alien from the ACA's goals, but perhaps handled in a way that will empower customers and not place an unwanted burden on taxpayers or health insurance policies.

First Trump promised to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and ensure a stable transitional period. Secondly, he wants to empower Americans to choose a plan they want, through tax credits and Health Savings Accounts, which would put pre-taxed dollars into accounts they can use to buy insurance (the emphasis being on selecting plans they want, not plans provided by the government).

Trump vowed to give governors the power to make decisions appropriate for their state, especially regarding Medicaid. He also promised legal reform to reduce the cost of health care, including the "artificially high price of drugs." Finally, he wants to create more options for Americans buying health insurance, including letting them buy across state lines.

Several GOP lawmakers have plans already in the works, including Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Senators Cassidy and Collins. These plans reflect some of what President Trump outlined during his address, with various nuances and differences.  All of them, however, aim to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, support Health Savings Accounts, and increase options for customers.

President Trump himself will not draft the laws. Unlike Obama, he will not overstep his bounds and take control away from Congress- whose job it is to produce the legislation that will replace Obamacare. His best hope is to use his vast platform- much like he did last night- to urge both parties in Congress to work on an effective plan that addresses the issues he laid out.

It's shocking to think that Democrats will work to prevent reforms to health care, simply because Obamacare was drafted by their party. Do party politics matter so much that they refuse to acknowledge that Obamacare is a failure? Maybe not a failure to everyone, but a failure to large portions of the United States.

That alone should motivate them to make improvements.

In my opinion? We will never be able to go back to pre-2010, when the federal government didn't have its fingers so entrenched in our personal lives. Our nation was built on the liberty of the individual, with as little government interference as possible. But with each new generation, we erode our individuality and independence for the so-called security of federal oversight.

But if it must be this way, then let us use it for good. The federal government must actually look at why health care is so rampantly expensive, confronting those institutions that abuse us when we are at our most vulnerable. While we will always depend on health insurance, competition from many sources will bring costs down and provide options for individuals and families. Our health care systems must be updated, with records and documentation being easily stored and accessible for patients and doctors.

Above all, the government needs to use its massive influence selectively, in a way that empowers Americans, not punishes or hinders them.

Will we see that in the inevitable Obamacare replacement? I don't know, but I have a feeling we will soon find out.

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