Brief: Overview of Obamacare
Everyone seems to have at least some vague understanding of what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, what many call “Obamacare,” actually is. After Pope Francis, “Obamacare” is the most popular name of 2013 so far. Despite being widely discussed, public understanding has been politicized to the point of widespread confusion. Here’s a brief:
Let’s start with the most controversial section of the act, the individual mandate. Basically, the individual mandate is a provision in the law that requires all American citizens to purchase health insurance unless they are in a specifically exempted group (low-income households, federally recognized Native American tribes, members of exempted religious groups, incarcerated individuals, etc.). If you choose to not purchase health insurance and are not in an exemption group, you will be responsible for paying a penalty (which detractors of the law have started to call a “tax”) based on your income. More information about the individual mandate can be found here.
Arguments against the individual mandate focus on the role of government - many Americans (including prominent anti-Obamacare spokespersons like Ted Cruz) - believe that the government should not be able to require Americans to buy anything. Some have responded to this by comparing it to car insurance, since many states require car insurance in order for a person to drive - but driving is a choice, while health is not. The analogy is hardly perfect, but you get the point.
The next major provision covers people with pre-existing conditions, health conditions already present when applying for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cannot base premiums or coverage acceptance on someone’s pre-existing conditions, they can only be decided on factors like age and geography. So, an insurance company cannot charge a higher premium for someone who has cancer because they have cancer.
For low-income individuals who want it to afford health insurance, Obamacare has a provision for subsidies - an increase in the Medicare tax for high-income households that would help the government subsidize low-income policies. One of the most notable taxes would be an excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” policies - expensive, high-quality healthcare plans usually selected by high-income individuals.
In order to sign up for services, the government and states will have their own “insurance marketplaces,” virtually online stores for purchasing health insurance. The launch of the Obamacare website was on October 1st, 2013 - and it has experienced widely reported technical issues.
Although obviously incomplete, this was a brief rundown of the law and its major provisions. I tried to be as unbiased and unpolitical as possible. What do you think of the law? Let me know!
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