Many of us seem to misunderstand “Obamacare.” Its nickname, given to it by the Republican Party, is misleading, for it suggests that it is an insurance policy or health care company. It shifts our attention to how many people signed up for their insurance through state and federal exchanges (about 20 million did).
We tend to forget that all Americans who have health insurance, benefit from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 or simply Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Obamacare” applies to all Americans, whether without health care coverage prior to the passage of this law or not.
It provides improvements in health care for all Americans, to wit:
- A preexisting condition can no longer be the basis for refusing anyone a health insu
- All children can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they reach the age of 26. Previously the limit was 18 years.
- There are no more annual or life-time limits on health care for any American.
- Insurance companies can no longer make unjustified rate hikes on any of their policies.
- All health insurance companies must provide a cost-free annual wellness visit for those on Part B of Medicare. (My wife and I availed ourselves of it and it was an eye-opening experience.)
- The amount any insurer can differentiate price based on age is now restricted.
- The ACA repeals all insurance companies’ exemption from anti-trust laws.
- It prohibits all health insurers from charging women higher rates than men.
- It establishes minimum standards for all health insurance plans in the US.
- It establishes a National HealthCare Workforce Commission composed of 15 individuals who will assess health care needs and make recommendations to congressional leaders.
- It requires most employers to provide coverage for their workers or pay a surtax on the workers wage of up to 8 percent.
- It expands Medicaid to include more low-income Americans by increasing Medicaid eligibility incomes to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The ACA defines affordable health insurance as that which costs less than 8 percent of your annual adjusted gross income.
- It subsidizes the insurance of all low- and middle-income Americans.
- It establishes a central health insurance exchange, where the entire public can compare policies and rates provided by an objective source.
It does require most Americans to carry qualifying health insurance coverage or face a surtax. Many healthy people don’t want health insurance and, when sick, overburden our more expensive emergency rooms. This surtax assures these citizens will pay their fair share of their own health care costs. (Fewer people using emergency rooms also means lower losses for hospitals.)
Reactionary conservatives have such support from the commercial media, they have been allowed to demonize this common sense law that protects us all from bad practices of the health insurance companies. Remember, the American people voted overwhelmingly to keep the ACA in voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 3 million votes. Ms. Clinton was a strong advocate of the ACA, even of adding a public option to it, an option to have your health care managed by the government like it does for Medicare. So, Mr. Trump has no mandate to repeal what he still calls “Obamacare.”