Let’s Talk about the Disastrous Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s Legacy

So, Republicans in the House and Senate are finally setting in motion the legislative action that they’ve been lusting for since 2010, repealing the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” as it’s affectionately/derisively known. After 60 attempts to repeal it during President Obama’s term in office, they’re finally going to have their way with his signature legislation. But are they actually prepared to do this? And how will this affect Obama’s legacy?

While the president may have wanted to get more out of his overhaul of the American healthcare system, the law, ultimately, went much further than Republicans wanted. They called it a job-killer — indeed, frequently, during the GOP primary debates leading up to the 2016 convention. However, the impact of the ACA on the economy can’t fully be measured. US business have added jobs for 75 consecutive months during the Obama presidency, for a total of over 11 million new jobs. However, many people don’t feel that the economy has improved that much since 2009. Still, the actual impact of the ACA on the job market can be difficult to ascertain.

Problematic Provisions of the ACA

Republicans also weren’t fans of the individual mandate nor of the penalty for those taxpayers who do not have health insurance coverage. Or, as the Supreme Court called it, a “tax” for those who don’t have insurance, deeming the individual mandate Constitutional. I’m not sure why they were so up in arms about it. The individual mandate was a right wing idea. I think we all know that by now. (I won’t go into the right wing obstruction of President Obama today.)

I think it’s a great idea to require people to have some sort of health insurance rather than making others foot the bill when hospitals provide care to people who don’t have coverage. Many hospitals have been able to add jobs since they stopped losing so much money to uninsured patients. This seems relatively simple, to me. Then again, I’m rather liberal as far as the expansion of healthcare coverage goes.

Women’s reproductive healthcare also grabbed quite of bit of attention from the religious right. Religious organizations along with closely held businesses — thanks to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision — were allowed to offer insurance plans that didn’t cover various birth control methods. Women could still obtain a plan on the healthcare marketplace that offered such coverage, but the case caused a great deal of debate.

I wasn’t thrilled with the results of the Hobby Lobby decision. I feel that women should be the ones making choices about whether they should access various birth control methods. I guess I can concede that a religious nonprofit organization that is against any form of birth control should not be forced to pay for insurance that covers birth control methods.

However, Hobby Lobby is a for profit company, and its owners are imposing their own religious beliefs on their employees. Personally, I think that’s an egregious overreach of the individual right to religious freedom. It’s especially ridiculous that the owners of Hobby Lobby don’t understand how the birth control methods in question work, and they also allow their funds to be invested in companies that make the type of birth control that they supposedly oppose.

Problems with Repealing the ACA

But is all this coming to an end? As the House and Senate are getting ready to repeal the ACA, are they ready for this? Many want an outright repeal of the law. Many, including President-Elect Trump, want to repeal it and replace it simultaneously, with something that has virtually only been described as “terrific.” Some want to repeal it and then take up to a couple years to come up with something better.

First, repealing the law and then leaving millions of people in the lurch for two years — or, indeed, any amount of time — would be politically ruinous. There are a number of provisions that are quite popular. I don’t think Republicans in Washington truly want to deal with the election day ramifications of pulling insurance coverage for young adults who are now able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 25 and from people who have pre-existing conditions or catastrophically high care costs.

I feel confident — and this is something that I hope we can count on Trump to have been honest about — that the ACA won’t be repealed without a replacement law that maintains those reasonable provisions of the law. Trump and the Republicans also have ideas to make insurance coverage more affordable. I really like their idea to allow plans to be sold across state lines. That will help in smaller states like Maine where only a small number of relatively pricey plans are available. This will increase the size of risk pools, making those plans more affordable.

I just wonder where all these brilliant ideas were for the last eight years when our friends on the right side of the aisle could have already been helping make healthcare more affordable for Americans. Did they not want to contribute to the “disaster” of Obamacare? Let’s be honest. The ACA wasn’t a disaster. If it were, they wouldn’t have a problem repealing it without replacing it. Providing healthcare coverage for tens of millions of people isn’t a disaster.

Moving Forward

This leaves us with one last question. How will this affect President Obama’s legacy? I believe that no matter what our next president and the 115th Congress decide to do, the Obama legacy regarding healthcare reform is secure. He spearheaded change that helped millions of Americans. If Republicans maintain some of those provisions and make healthcare even more affordable, history will know where it began.

And if those millions are left to fend for themselves without coverage, we can be certain that the next Democratic Congress and President — surely to be elected in the wake of such blatant disregard for the needs of Americans — will ensure that the legacy of healthcare reform will not be forsaken.

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