For some Americans facing a large hospital or health care bill, the biggest misnomer regarding the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) is that the law in some way could lower their liability now or in the future. The ACA, coming in at roughly 2,700 pages and requiring an additional 20,000 pages of perplexing federal guidelines and regulations of explanations at best creates a new playing field for how insurance companies are to operate, charge and conduct business with ample small print reserved for who is responsible for paying the bill.
The ACA uncannily has come to resemble that other law Congress rushed into existence during our national security crisis; the Patriot Act. One might add, most of the people who passed that law never read it all the way through either. So complaining to your Congressperson about the act might be a call that falls on deaf ears for good reason. No consolation to those of course facing bankruptcy regarding medical bills. Least anyone forget the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is still a medical bill they can’t pay!
The key factor to making the ACA work lies in getting young people to sign up for health care insurance. Traditionally they are the healthiest and will need to use the insurance the least but their premiums will buoy up a system in dire need of capital. Additionally, the remaining uninsured, who now by law will be required to be insured under ACA, will hopefully seek treatment sources other than hospital emergency rooms which are the most expensive care options and an integral reason health cost are so high; or so we are told! Plus the idea has been pitched that the influx of new money from law abiding citizens ordered to get insurance, will spark growth in the insurance industry to meet the new demands of so many new customers. Logic that is practically flawless in the minds of those in the beltway!
Reducing health care costs by using end of the pipe solutions is a very risky business however. Rather than take on the AMA, the insurance industry and the makers of medical equipment head on, Washington’s cure for the problem is to throw more money on the fire by requiring all to get insurance. To make that possible for even the poorest, a new entitlement program has been created, matching income and insurance needs so that everyone will be able to afford his or her care. The jury is still very far from being in if this strategy will actually work. Words like free market, competition and demand market thinking look good on paper, but could very well backfire on us all if the major players fail to address the new markets as predicted.
Already insurance companies that offer polices that don’t meet the ACA requirements for minimum coverage are cancelling them or reconfiguring existing polices to their best advantage: not necessarily their customers. The President has had to go back on his earlier announcement that if consumers did not like the offerings provided by ACA, they could continue to keep their old polices. This is pretty hard to do when the old policy no longer exists.
New government bureaucracies, entitlement programs, the ups and down of free market realities regarding profitable insurance offerings coupled along with the inability to access affordable health care at any price because computer access is down, have made the ACA’s initial debut a very unsettling event. But one thing is certain; we are a long way off from getting any closer to having some lower over all health costs. The ACA has the potential to help, but has an even greater potential to just add to the problems we face with health care and both political parties have to take their fair share of the blame for making it so.