Enrollment for healthcare provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began last week, when Congress failed to pass a budget as a result of opposition to the ACA.
The ACA, or Obamacare, was proposed by President Barack Obama and passed during his first term in office in 2010. The new policy changes federal law regarding health insurance, providing healthcare coverage to the 40 million U.S. residents who do not currently have such insurance. As shown by the government shutdown, the bill has drawn significant controversy, with Republicans in the House of Representatives refusing to pass a budget that allows funding for the ACA.
One major change implemented by the ACA is the new ability for young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26, a provision which restricts insurance companies from withholding coverage from people who suffer from pre-existing conditions.
There has also been an expansion of Medicaid and an individual mandate requiring anyone who chooses not to have insurance to pay a fine. However, the new mandate has drawn significant controversy, despite being upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional, as some argue that it acts as a violation of personal freedom.
Political science professor Stephen Wiener, who specializes in American politics and supports the ACA, said the mandate was included in the Obamacare package because it helps more people get insured, thus promising these companies more clientele.
“Since it’s a private insurance program, you have to be able to insure people who aren’t that ill because that’s where you’re going to get most of your money,” Wiener said. “It’s just like auto insurance. Most people don’t get in car accidents, but we all have to have auto insurance and that’s how the insurance companies stay afloat.”
Third-year English and geography double major Ansel Lundberg, who is also publicity director for Campus Democrats, said the ACA benefits college students because it increases the age at which young people may remain on their parents’ plans.
“If your parents have good insurance, you can stay on their insurance instead of getting Gaucho health insurance — which is pretty expensive — until you’re older and have a secure job,” Lundberg said. “A lot of us have Gaucho health insurance, but community college students … will find it easier to be insured.”
Lundberg said the new health insurance law also raises the number of employers who will offer insurance to employees.
However, Cameron Rankin, executive director of the College Republicans, said there are actually several drawbacks to the ACA and the individual mandate. Rankin said there would be an increased cost of healthcare for younger generations since younger citizens will be essentially funding insurance coverage for older age groups that require more medical care.
“As young and generally healthy people, our insurance rates, historically, have been the lowest of any age group,” Rankin said. “However, the new law requires that the high cost of insuring the elderly would be subsidized by passing the astronomical cost to us, charging us a significantly greater amount than the market price.”
While Rankin said tax increases are another major downfall to the bill, he said his primary reason for disagreeing with the ACA is that it changes the relationship between the government and the people, violating what he believes to be fundamental values of the United States.
“I believe that [the ACA] represents a fundamental transformation in the nature of the relationship between government and the individual,” Rankin said in an email. “It goes against our founding fathers’ intended limited government and fails the basic notion of freedom by forcing the people to make purchases against their will.
According to Rankin, he would have preferred to see more of a free-market system in which a bill would offer tax incentives to increase the number of people with insurance.
Wiener, however, said the ACA actually is a free-market solution to the issue of healthcare, as it includes a set of parameters benefitting both the general public and private insurance companies. He said the cost of the new plan will “be reduced significantly” over the next 10 years, if there is full implementation of it.
“It’s entirely a free market system, and in a sense, there are tax incentives,” Wiener said. “It’s not the tax incentives to the insurance company, per se, but it’s an incentive to the consumer, and insurance companies themselves are getting a major benefit from this.”
In regards to the recent government shutdown, the College Republicans were in agreement with both Wiener and the Campus Democrats that the House Republicans are making a mistake by shutting down all federal government activity. Rankin called the “tactics” of GOP members in the House of Representatives “thoroughly unwise,” and he said that these congressmen are jeopardizing their own careers and even increasing the permanence of the ACA by remaining uncooperative.
“The best strategy they could employ would be to quickly pass a continuing resolution to fund the government. Then they should work with fellow lawmakers from across the aisle to improve the worst aspects of the law,” Rankin said. “Currently, they run the real risk of losing control of the House — a loss that would all but secure the long-term survival of the Affordable Care Act.”
Lundberg said regardless of how any person feels about the ACA, the idea of shutting down government services is simply unacceptable.
“Federal agencies have no money, and hundreds of thousands of people are out of work this week,” Lundberg said. “I would say, sadly, these hundreds of thousands of people are out of a job because of this small faction of Republicans … It is not acceptable to shut down the entire federal government just because they don’t like certain parts of a certain law that has been already signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of October 7, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.