President Barack Obama’s signature legislative initiative– Affordable Care Act—completed five years of its meaningful existence. The President signed the epoch-making law on March 23, 2010 which has transformed the lives of more than 16 million Americans.
Prior to Obamacare, the U.S. was one of the only developed nations that didn’t have a national health program.
“In the U.S., health care is provided for profit, and it’s the most expensive in the world. Since Harry Truman’s efforts to enact a national health plan in the 1940s, lobbyists for the health care industry have blocked attempts to implement national health insurance. Obamacare represents a step in the right direction toward achieving the goal of providing universal health coverage,” Dr Ralph E. Pyle, assistant professor, Department of Sociology, Michigan State University, told Global Times.
Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) aims at providing access to affordable health insurance for underprivileged, improving the quality of health care, regulating health insurance industry and reducing health care spending.
“It’s a fact that people across the country now can see more affordable coverage, higher quality care, and better health. Obama cares,” Arka Chaudhuri, IT manager, P&G, from Gaithersburg, MD, told Global Times.
As many as 9.4 million people with Medicare have saved a total of more than $15 billion on prescription medicine. 76 million people are benefiting from preventive care coverage, 105 million no longer have a lifetime limit on their health coverage and up to 129 million people with pre-existing conditions are no longer at risk of being denied coverage. And finally zero death panels were created.
Despite Republicans’ efforts in undoing health care reform, now the uninsured rate is at or near historic low. Obamacare is particularly effective in three key areas: creation of exchanges with subsidies for those who qualify, expansion of Medicaid and minimum standards for insurance plans have benefited at least 31 million Americans.
The program, however, still faces legal hurdles: petitioners argued in the Supreme Court that under the statute, the federal government is not allowed to provide health insurance subsidies in the 37 states that have either declined or failed to establish their own exchanges.
The top court’s decision is most likely in June and it may undermine the program in many states. If the top court gives verdict in petitioners’ favor, it will vindicate the stand of critics in Congress.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans faced higher premiums after being forced off substandard plans. However, the law’s key role in the U.S. health care system seems assured.
Speaking to Global Times, Dr Subrata Mukherjee, a dentist from Albany, NY said: “Access to healthcare is a fundamental right. As a dentist I like to see everyone in the society has access to oral and dental healthcare. There is no question about the importance of Affordable Care Act. But everything comes at a cost. It will be sometime before we’ll get to know the effects of Obamacare to businesses and individuals alike. Well, if we can strike the right balance, we’ll reap the benefit.”
Requesting anonymity, a worker of Edward’s Steakhouse, Jersey City, NY told Global Times said: “Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. It also calls for all employees who work more than 30 hours a week, rather than the traditional 40 hours a week, to be considered full-time when firms determine their size for coverage purposes. Obama has done what no other presidents have done it before.”
This article was published in Global Times on 24 April 2015