With the 2014 Midterm Elections decided and the American People hoping the political world might offer some solutions to the issues that most concern them, American politicians are hard at work building the foundations of what will be their campaigns in 2016. As a hot-button issue, Obamacare is certain to be a major theme of our political theater over the next two years. Although the Affordable Care Act needs, and has always needed, important changes, the dysfunctional, degenerative dynamic of the US political system is certain to seize upon that need and exploit it.
Entering the second open enrollment period of Obamacare on November 15th, the Obama Administration is hoping to avoid the embarrassing fiasco of last year. While the actual Affordable Care Act cannot be blamed for the malfunction of healthcare.gov, in spite of what critics would like to claim, the reality that a classic lack of sufficient government oversight for private contractors and a long time habit of Washington failing to hold contractors accountable for their failures helped sour many Americans on Obamacare.
Sadly, the core function of healthcare.gov to act as a “marketplace” to help consumers purchase healthcare insurance was not new. Companies like eTeleQuote have an established history of helping consumers shop for health insurance policies and providers. In fact, they have even been able to cater to the often”technologically challenged” seniors who are looking to find coverage that can help them deal with the dreaded Medigap. As such, there is no reason healthcare.gov should have had the problems it did.
Moving forward, however, users of healthcare.gov may have trouble renewing their policies while the tax scheme associated with the so-called Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act is turning out to be more complicated than presented. Most troubling is a case before the Supreme Court that is challenging the right of those who used the federal health exchange to purchase coverage to take advantage of tax subsidies.
If the Court decides in King v. Burwell only those who use State exchanges are eligible for tax credits based on the poor wording of the Affordable Care Act, those who rely on tax credits to make health insurance affordable are not going to be able to afford health insurance while they are going to end up owing money they likely cannot afford to pay back.
From the perspective of self-proclaimed Conservatives, this scenario is a political dream that ensures the death of Obamacare and, more importantly, a tidal wave of Republican victories in 2016. From the perspective of Statesmen who are in government to serve the American People, this is a serious concern that needs to be immediately fixed by simply changing the wording of the law without trying to use the potential emergency to accomplish the partisan political goal of repealing Obamacare.
In many respects, the failings of Obamacare were created by the Obama Administration trying to make the legislation bipartisan and allowing the various medical industries to help write the law. In safeguarding the profits of the health insurance industry and their executives, the American People are now paying the price. Despite what the Right says about Obamacare, it was built on the 1993 Republican compromise for healthcare reform, including the Individual Mandate.
If the Obama Administration had truly ”rammed” the Affordable Care Act through Congress instead of spending months trying to appease Republicans and lobbyists, the individual mandate would probably not even be part of Obamacare while issues like narrowing healthcare provider networks and employers dropping their employees coverage through reduced hours would not be happening. Instead, everyone would be able to sign up for a basic public option, which would be underwritten by private insurers, and buy supplemental healthcare plans from private insurance providers.
Considering healthcare reform was desperately needed long before Obamacare due to our political system neglecting the issue for decades while Republicans did not intend to tackle healthcare reform the last time they controlled government, all of their efforts on healthcare reform are suspect. After all, the Right is leading the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act through either legislation or Court order and it has been doing so since before it became law. In other words, the GOP appears to view healthcare reform as solely a political opportunity and not a serious issue that hurts the American People.
That said, responsible Republicans need to work with President Obama and Democratic legislators to address the faults of the Affordable Care Act as well as the even larger problems with America’s overall healthcare system. This does not mean offering amendments that the President will be forced to veto or Democrats cannot support. It means actually trying to address the unintended consequences of Obamacare and finding solutions that will work to get people better, more affordable healthcare. Instead of making Obamacare an issue for 2016, both Democrats and Republicans need to make healthcare reform an accomplishment to stand on.
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