When I was in my freshman year, my dad had a heart attack. He was in the hospital for weeks and finally had surgery. Because of my family’s access to health insurance, my dad was able to undergo a surgery that could have cost from $70,000 to $200,000 for free.
This is the importance of health insurance. And now millions of Americans may no longer have access to this vital institution.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare for the people who don’t know that they are the same thing, has covered over 22 million Americans with health insurance since 2010. The policy has ensured that poorer and middle class families have access to healthcare that treats preexisting conditions.
In short, Obamacare has made healthcare accessible for most Americans. It expanded Medicaid to more low income families and subsidized health insurance for families purchasing health insurance from private companies.
However, the policy was not perfect. Originally, the Affordable Care Act required all states to expand Medicaid for more low income families; however, this was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Some states decided not to expand Medicaid, making some Americans unable to access either Medicaid or subsidized private insurance.
And while the policy promised to make healthcare affordable, it did not do so for everyone. Some insurance companies took advantage of state insurance policies and increased premiums, copayments, and deductibles. In fact, this year premiums are set to rise by 22 percent. And because of Republican obstruction, these problems could never be solved.
Regardless of these problems, the repeal of Obamacare could be detrimental to the economy without an adequate replacement.
Social Studies Department Chair Andrea Duwel says, “The uncertainty of repeal has insurance companies not knowing what to do. And if it is repealed before it is replaced, it could create a lot of volatility. Any momentous change is going to have a shock.
Duwel adds, “It took six years for hospitals and insurers to get the momentum of the program and get it fully rolled out. And now to just change that, to change anything would be disruptive.”
In fact, if Republicans continue to repeal without coming up with a replacement, insurance companies and hospitals will lose funding, forcing them to fire employees. A study by the Commonwealth Fund found that the repeal of Obamacare could result in the loss of 3 million jobs by 2021.
However, all is not lost, Duwel believes: “Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, healthcare was not considered a right. The conversation has changed. Even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and 22 million people lose their health insurance, the conversation is now ‘What are you gonna do for those people?’”
Duwel adds, “The Republicans say they are going to provide something better. What is this magic better? We don’t know, but we will find out.”
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has suggested implementing high-risk pools which are insurance programs for people with chronic illnesses or diseases. However, this program may not work for all Americans but rather the employed people who can afford health insurance.
If you don’t want to see Obamacare repealed, there are many ways you can get involved. Duwel says, “People need to reach out to their lawmakers. People need to get educated. They need to get the facts on every issue. Don’t read the news on Snapchat. Read the New York Times. Read the Wall Street Journal. Understand what’s going on.”
Duwel also suggests, “Get involved at the local, the state, and the federal level. You can pick up the phone and call Zoe Lofgren or Kamala Harris’ office, but I think it’s bigger than that. We need to make civil engagement in general part of what we do.”