Assignment: Re-evaluating ACA

Assignment: Re-evaluating ACA

Assignment: Re-evaluating ACA

Diagnosing the Current Problems of the United States Health Care System Requires Examining the History of Health Reform by Thomas Kingsley

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MY FIRST PATIENT AS A MEDICAL STUDENT was a victim of the United States health care system. A fifty-year-old man who died of a heart attack shortly upon arriving at the hospital, this particular gentleman had been experiencing chest pain for over a year. But he had forgone a doctor’s visit because he had let his health insurance lapse due to its high cost. He is by no means alone. Sadly, the United States manages to leave 47 million Americans—about 17.7 per- cent of the country’s nonelderly population—uninsured.1 Of these uninsured Americans, 61 percent stated they either could not afford the cost of insurance or lost coverage after being laid off.2

Yet, remarkably, 55 percent of Americans do not approve of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).3 In 2010, the Democratic Congress passed the ACA—better known as Obamacare—in an effort to increase coverage for those individuals without health insurance. The Republican House of Representatives has voted numerous times to repeal the law, and the GOP has made the legislation the central target of its partisan attacks. At first glance, this concerted opposition would appear to be the result of a lack of understanding on the part of the public, or merely political theatrics. Indeed, a Pew Research poll has indicated that, despite the displeasure with the ACA, 75 percent of Americans do not know how the law would impact them personally.4

However, is there, in fact, any real cause—beyond blind partisanship—to be dissatisfied with the ACA? Such an essential policy cannot be analyzed within the proverbial political echo chamber; policy makers and ordinary Americans alike must objectively examine the merits and shortcomings of the law, several years after its passage. Without this more nuanced analysis, Americans resign themselves to blindly take sides in a partisan war that threatens the future of our health care system, our economy, and the well-being of American citizens. To adequately understand the successes and failures of the law, we need to return to the bill’s origins: Massachusetts, circa 2006.

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