To and For Your Health

Americans are too jaded to listen to one more news story about the health care reform, which is why some among us mistakenly believe that “Obamacare” is different from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Political vitriol surrounding the ACA is not only unproductive; it deceives the American public.

“Obamacare” is a misnomer, but so is “Affordable Care Act.” The term “affordable” misleads many Americans into thinking they will have cheap health insurance. But the pen is not mighty enough to reform decades of health insurance bureaucracy and price hikes.

Healthcare insurance providers are corporations intent on maximizing profits and downgrading the standard of care for the patients.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed on March 2010 by President Obama to reform the healthcare industry. After overcoming numerous objections, the law went into effect on Oct. 2013.

In theory, it was a good thought, but it seems the Obama administration bit off more than they could chew with such a lofty goal as “affordable” healthcare. The intent was noble, but the harsh reality of special interest groups and politics muddled the outcome.

Americans on both sides of the political spectrum have complained about how the ACA has been playing out. Some liberals are referring to the ACA with the pejorative misnomer conservatives coined, “Obamacare.”

The Health Insurance Marketplace is not a cure-all. The key is seeing the benefits of the act, and taking the ACA for what it is: reform of a healthcare system which did not serve the interests of the American people.

The new online “marketplace” helps you choose which plan you want to buy: Bronze, insurance pays 60 percent of your medical cost; Silver, insurance pays 70 percent of your medical cost; Gold, insurance pays 80 percent of your medical cost; and Platinum, insurance pays 90 percent of your medical costs.

Before we go too much further into the tornado of benefits versus taxes, let’s clear up some misconceptions.

The creation of a Health Insurance Marketplace benefits 15 percent of Americans who currently do not have health insurance. It does not affect 50 percent of Americans who receive coverage through their employer.

So what are the options for the other 15 percent? We can either obtain health insurance, get an exemption, or if we choose not to buy insurance at all, pay a per month fee on our tax returns for every month we do not have health coverage, starting in 2014. (The fee will increase every year, starting in 2014 as 1 percent of our yearly income or $95/per person a year.)

An immigrant who has legal documentation of citizenship and has lived here for more than five years can qualify for Medicaid, or tax credit if their income is low. They will be exempt from the mandate penalty if their insurance premiums are more than 8 percent of household income, and in turn don’t buy insurance. Undocumented immigrants won’t qualify for subsidies or Medicaid, and will have to continue to seek care in community clinics and hospital emergency rooms.

If one problem is solved with the reform act, another will rise in its place — it is the nature of the bureaucracy. So, while healthcare has been expanded to cover tens of millions of people, someone is getting taxed for it. The brunt of the taxes burden falls on high-earners, large businesses and the healthcare industry.

That would be all well and good if the term “mandate” wasn’t bleeding all over the bill. The ACA requires that large employers provide health insurance to their full-time employees by 2015, and individuals and families must buy health insurance by 2014, or pay a monthly fee in its place.

Yes, the tedious effort of typing in our detailed personal information is causing a traffic jam on healthcare.gov/marketplace, as the government checks our backgrounds and decides whether we are eligible for a new way to get lower costs on our monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs for private insurance.

So the website is lacking in technological solutions. Guess what issue will arise when this one is fixed: the shock of how expensive the health care plans will still be, regardless of whether we call the act “The Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare.” Once we understand how unrealistic our expectations are for “cheap” healthcare, we can give “affordable” health care a chance.

For UCI students, affordable health care means letting us stay on our parent’s health plan until we are 26. Affordable health care also means free preventative care.

Affordable health care means not being shut out by insurance companies for having a pre-existing condition. (If your current health insurance provider does not cover pre-existing conditions, you can choose a new health insurance provider that will through the Marketplace.) Affordable health care means stopping insurance companies from all the bad they do like dropping us because we get sick and making unjustified rate hikes. Affordable means all these things, but it does not mean cheap.

So next time you log onto the Health Insurance Marketplace, don’t expect it to be cheap, but expect it to be there for your benefit. There are now health insurance programs vying for your business, rather than shutting the door on you.

You have some sway over the healthcare you receive. Go to healthcare.gov and see for yourself.

 

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