Phoenix, Arizona— A month after the US Supreme Court approved the Obama administration’s signature health care reform on June 28, many Americans are still debating the possible consequences in their personal lives and for the country’s economic future.
In stark contrast to the evident pride of the British in their public health system – celebrated during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 – Americans are sceptical of what they perceive as government intervention.
The new Affordable Care Act, nicknamed, “Obamacare,” calls a variety of new legislation into action that impact the healthcare industry and insurance coverage of all Americans.
The various political camps debate how healthcare should be managed and the effects on government spending and quality of care.
President Barack Obama called the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his health care law “a victory for people all over the country whose lives will be more secure”.
“They’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle, that here in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin,” President Obama said.
But others disagree with the direction the president has taken on national healthcare.
“For me, Obamacare means that I need to work even harder to ensure that I get a specialty of my choosing,” said Greg Walker, a pre-med student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
“There is a shortage of primary care physicians, and while Obamacare promises to increase reimbursements for primary care doctors somewhat, it simply cannot incentivize the best students to choose a specialty where they will be overworked and paid less than a more specialized field.”
According to Walker, aspiring physicians like him face two possible career paths.
“Obamacare means ‘be at the top of your class so you don’t have to deal with government insurance’,” he said. “This leaves the bottom of the heap to treat those who can’t afford to pay for a better doctor. Consequently, the richest Americans will have access to the best doctors while the poor will have access to lower quality care.
“More and more doctors will simply close their doors to Medicare and Medicaid patients and adopt a fee-for-service approach to practicing medicine. Many other physicians will simply retire early, further exacerbating the already existing shortage of healthcare providers.”
The new law, which is already being phased in, will require health insurers to offer coverage to all, even those who have serious medical conditions. It also means children can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
This legislation is great news for Joshua Reyes of Phoenix, Arizona.
“I know my parents are die-hard Republicans and dismiss the health care reform but they have trouble denying the fact that is has helped me,” said Reyes, 24, who recently discovered he has been diagnosed with a treatable blood condition.
“Because of it, I could be on my father’s healthcare plan and get the treatment I need while I continue to look for a job or find insurance on my own.”
Regardless of what the Supreme Court has decided, the dispute still rages over what impact the health care law will have on the country and the federal budget over the long term.
In 2014, a penalty $285 per family or 1 per cent of income, whichever is greater, will be imposed on those without insurance. By 2016, that figure goes up to $2,085 per family or 2.5 per cent of income. The tax is expected to raise about $4 billion a year to help pay for healthcare coverage.
But the federal government is set to spend more than $1 trillion over the next decade to subsidize coverage and expand eligibility for Medicaid.
Republican state officials sued to strike down the law before it could take effect, arguing this insurance “mandate” amounted to an unconstitutional overreach by the Democrats.
US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who is credited with casting the decisive vote in the historic decision, said: “The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. The federal government does have power to impose a tax on those without insurance.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has campaigned on the issue, saying Americans should decide if they want more government, more deficits, and possibly lose their preferred insurance, or if they want to “return to a time when the American people will have their own choice in healthcare”.