Widely known as ‘Obamacare’, the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. Debated widely in many different forums, it is considered to be the biggest healthcare undertaking by the U.S. government since the introduction of Medicare to protect the health rights of the elderly. The PPACA is expected to be in full flow by the year 2014 and will make its way in to the American society through a series of changes expected to take place in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. However, the effects of the act will continue to evolve until the year 2019, where it is expected to expand the present health insurance benefits to an additional 32 million Americans at a cost of $938 billion, at the same time achieving a budget deficit of $124 billion within the same duration.
The most significant aspect of this legislation is that it necessitates or mandates most individuals to acquire whichever type of health insurance by the year 2014. Thus, people whom already in possession of a health insurance either through their employer, Medicaid, Medicare or through private insurers could continue to hold on to the same insurances, while those who do not possess health insurance coverage should do so using any such means. However, those who do not have access or ability to afford such health insurance can obtain the same through a Health Insurance Exchange. These policies would be having premium and cost-sharing credits, which makes it affordable for such people. Small businesses would also be able to subscribe into health insurance through a separate exchange. In such instances, the employers are liable to pay penalties for those employees who receive tax credit for health insurance. In addition, the Medicaid will be expanded to include all individuals below the age of 65 years falling under the federal poverty level of 33%.
With regard to the health insurers, it will be difficult for them to deny insurance coverage for any person for any reason including their health status. At the same time, the act would ensure that people want be charged a higher premium based on their health status and gender.
While it seems to be an expansive drive towards socializing the present healthcare system, as mentioned earlier, the Congressional Budget Office states that the act can lower the budget deficit by $143 billion over a ten-year period. Thus, apart from enrolling more Americans into the umbrella of health insurance coverage, the act also offsets its costs by reducing the payments to hospitals as well as increasing Medicare taxes on higher income households. At the same time, the PPACA will also impose penalties on employers who do not offer it, or on people who do not take health insurance coverage. It will impose taxes on various health-related activities as well. In addition, the government is also expected to reduce overheads by consolidating the higher education loan program with the Pell grant.
All in all, many believe the Patient Protection and Affordability Act as a correct move to provide everyone with the necessary health care access and make healthcare affordable to each and every American. However, many obstacles will come in its way until it is fully implemented in the year 2014.