Affordable Care Act changes lives of many Americans

Posted December 3, 2012

By SAIRA SUMBAL
School of Communication
University of Miami

A week before Easter in 2007, on a beautiful sunny day in Coral Gables, Fla., Patrick Quinlan would receive news that would change his life.

After the pre-teen continuously showed unusual medical symptoms, Quinlan’s mother made the decision to take him to the doctor.

After a series of blood tests at Miami Children’s Hospital, the 12-year-old who comes from a family of artists and musicians was diagnosed with a pre-existing condition: type one diabetes.

Quinlan, who is currently a freshman at the University of Miami and majors in international studies, remembers his mother crying that day.

“I remember even as a preteen, my mother told me that I always needed to have a job. Because if I was on my own, I couldn’t afford this medicine,” he said.

Today, Quinlan’s worries about paying for health care have changed. He is  part of a group of young adults who will benefit from President Obama’s health care reform, the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26, proponents argue that the act makes it difficult for insurance companies to discriminate against those of all ages with pre-existing conditions.

In the past, insurance companies would deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions because of the possible hefty costs that could come with insuring individuals with a condition.

The Affordable Care Act has come under much criticism however, particularly because of the individual mandate involved with the reform.

Opponents argue that the reform is an over-extension of government power and that it forces people to pay for health insurance, in some ways serving as a tax.

“I think at this point it’s disingenuous to say it won’t be a huge financial burden. It’s been made clear the amount of tax increases coming along that are going to be enormous. And what that means is that the health care will be a tax. And then you have all the different taxes going with the bill. All of these costs are enormous financial burdens on businesses, families, and insurance policies. We’ve seen immediately following President Obama’s re-election businesses preparing for Obamacare in 2014 and they have started to lay off employees,” said Abigail F. Maclver, director of Policy and External Affairs for the Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity focuses on educating the public about limited government and the importance of a free market economy. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the organization worries about the direction the reform will put the country.

“We as an organization focus on economic policy and fiscal policy, free markets and lower taxes. And the reason we focus on those policies is because those are the key policies to have a prosperous country and to allow every individual to live a prosperous life. And that’s hopefully what every student is going to college to work to achieve,” said Maclver.

Often, graduates fresh out of college, who must carry the burden of paying student loans in a time with increasing tuition hikes, are also faced with the dilemma of no longer being on their parents insurance.

Because of this, students have three major options in obtaining health care, including depending on a prospective job to provide health insurance, paying out of pocket or not having health care at all.

However, many believe that the health care reform won’t be a financial burden. Supporters cite the access to a variety of options in health care that they argue will drive market competition. The Congressional Budget Office put out a report stating that health care will cost the government $938 billion over the course of 10 years; however will actually reduce the U.S. deficit by $138 billion in that same time period.

“I can understand individuals having to pay for health care, but as a country it is deficit neutral. By creating a wider health care market, it spreads the cost so that it’s not just paying for seniors. People who say we shouldn’t be forced to buy health care don’t understand that the entire system fails if everyone isn’t involved in it. Health insurance is something everybody is going to need at some point in their life; it’s like a preemptive way to get everyone in the country working together. I can’t afford my health care if other people in this college aren’t on insurance either,” said Quinlan.

Farha Abbasi, a psychiatrist at Michigan State University  who works with college students, says that it is imperative that everyone, including students, have dependable coverage, something both sides agree on.

“The greatest concern right now is that students are seeing their parents struggle financially, so standards of living are going down. Additionally, students are dealing with tuition hikes and unable to find jobs, so that has had a huge effect on a student’s emotional health. Because of the economy, I have seen a huge increase in stress and depression among students,” said Abbasi.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported for the month of September that about 45 percent of Americans were in favor of the Affordable Care Act while 40 percent were not in favor. However, 14 percent of Americans remain undecided on the health care.

Though the country is divided on its support for the Affordable Care Act, there is no doubt that a health care reform of some kind is deeply needed to counter a broken system with various core issues. The issue at hand is not whether health care reform is needed, but instead what reform looks like.

“First issue is there is a common realization that we are spending huge amounts on health care for more than we need to. That, in terms becomes a global issue, because it means that we can’t compete globally. We don’t get what we pay for. We have a significant amount of people uninsured in this country, so we have 55 million in the United States who have no health insurance. And the fourth issue is we have very poor patient safety,” said Steven G. Ullmann, professor and director of programs in Health Sector Management and Policy at the University of Miami on areas where our health care system needs to be reformed.

Many efforts to educate young adults on the variety of options they have with health care reform are in place. With the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act in June of this year, many changes will be occurring. Some organizations are taking initiatives to help young adults make a transition into a new health system.

Young Invincibles is a group that mobilizes young adults on issues of higher education, health care and jobs. The group recently started a campaign to help young adults adjust to changes in health care. Recently, the organization created a new mobile application that allows their users, who are mainly young adults, to find local medical centers.

“Once you understand the health care world, you become a powerful consumer. Being able to educate and show young people benefits allow us to really see improvements in their lives,” said Jen Mishory, deputy director of Young Invincibles.

Issues over health care are likely to arise as various phases of the reform are enacted. Policy makers on both sides agree that reform is needed to ensure that citizens are receiving adequate health services. The issue however arises with how to go about implementing reform, hence the protest from some policy makers and citizens of the Affordable Care Act.

Donna Shalala, former Clinton Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services and current president at the University of Miami, says that the discussions on health care reveals something deeper about the direction the country is going in.

“I think it says a lot about the country and what our priorities are. And its priorities are a healthy population, and that’s one of the best investments the country can make,” said Shalala.

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