What’s so bad about the Affordable Care Act?

Posted on: October 9th, 2013

By James Stancliffe
The Loyola Phoenix

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the U.S. government shut down for the first time in 17 years. The cause? The Affordable Care Act, which is often known as Obamacare. After attempting to overturn Obamacare more than 40 times since 2011, the Republican House tied the funding to the budget of the entire U.S. government. As the Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama have vowed to reject any bill that denies funding to Obamacare, the passage of a continuing resolution, which continues to fund the government at current levels, became virtually impossible. Since there is no money left for the government, it has shut down.

I’m a huge fan of Obamacare. While I don’t believe that it goes far enough to provide good quality health care to all citizens, I think it is a fantastic first step. One of my favorite parts include that half of all Americans who have individual insurance plans will receive help to buy it, which will average out to about $2,600 of assistance. It requires insurance companies to limit the money they spend on administration to 20 percent of revenue on administrative costs. This means that less of your premiums are spent paying for executives and lobbyists, and more are spent on your care. According to Republicans, however, because Medicare is government-run it must be more inefficient than private companies. Yet it actually only has administrative costs of 2 percent –  HMOs clearly have a way to go.

Further, Obamacare means that kids can stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26, giving them some protection while they try to find jobs. It also makes sure that nobody can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or because his or her family has passed a life-time cap on health care costs. That means that, regardless of whether you had an accident as a child or someone in your family got sick, you will always be able to purchase health care.

While I sometimes agree with the argument that big government intrusion into the marketplace is bad for both the people and the market, I don’t even understand why Obamacare provokes such hatred in members of the right wing. All of those points seem to be sensible reforms designed to ensure that everyone gets health care. If everyone is healthier, they work more and the economy and nation benefit. Moreover, it’s actually cheaper for the government to treat people in a preventative fashion, rather than waiting until they need to go to the emergency room. That’s why Obamacare will actuallyreduce the federal budget deficit by over $100 billion. Not to mention that the nation resoundingly returned the president to his office in an election less than a year ago, and this policy is so associated with him that it bears his name.

But more than this budget showdown being unjustified, it’s also incredibly bad politics on the part of the Republican Party. By shutting down the government, they will prevent millions of people from enjoying the benefits that a stable federal government brings. Millions of government workers will be sent home without pay. Thousands of parks and forests will be closed, which will cause significant damage to tourism. Perhaps most worryingly, the bureaucrats who process Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid claims will not be allowed to work. While existing members of these programs will continue to receive benefits, no new claims can be processed. Millions of the most vulnerable in our society, the elderly and the poor, will be at risk without these programs.

Yet the Republicans look gleeful at the prospect. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann said that the GOP is“very excited,” and that the “people will be grateful” about the shutdown. Speaker of the House John Boehner and his caucus continue to be unwilling to compromise, and often are led by new representatives who are members of the extreme Tea Party. The political ideology of the Tea Party believes in a government that is the smallest it can possibly be. Because they believe the government offers little benefit to the people, shutting down the government does not appear to be a problematic position. One need only think of Grover Norquist, who once said, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.

The problem with this attitude is that they failed to bring the American people along with it. In August, 73 percent of all Americans said that the Republicans should not shut down the government over Obamacare. Moreover, 53 percent of Republicans also said no. No wonder more than 50 percent of Americans say they blame the Republicans alone for the government shutdown.

James Stancliffe is the public relations director for the Loyola Democrats and a contributing columnist. You can contact him at jstancliffe@luc.edu 

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