With $2.4 trillion spent on healthcare annually, rising insurance premiums and the crippling expenses imposed on the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have insurance coverage, the Obama Administration introduced the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to tackle the fiscal deficit and provide better access to services. White House figures have been impressive, with claims that they’ve saved $10.7 billion since introducing the ACA.
In 2010, many seniors received $250 rebate checks to help cover the Medicaid “donut hole”, a gap in coverage that appears after a payout ceiling of $2,830. While the Obama Administration endeavors to close the gap entirely by 2014, the rebate is designed to alleviate the difficulties of one of society’s most vulnerable groups. Coverage for those with pre-existing conditions soon followed, with free preventive care in place by 2011. The White House then announced that 2.5 million more Americans under the age of 26 had been successfully included in their parents’ policies.
Access to healthcare is a widely acknowledged issue, but the measures and ideology of the act have been contentious. Different sides in the debate, ranging from average citizens to those who have completed an online rnbsn program, have leveraged statistics, failures and successes to paint very different pictures. The challenge, then, is in knowing how to interpret the data, and where to look for it.
By 2012, two million more workers had insurance coverage after tax credits of up to 35% were offered to employers who contributed to their worker’s premiums. There are, however, over 30 million employees in America’s small businesses, and only 0.2% of those business not already providing adequate contributions to employee insurance coverage. The percentage of workers receiving coverage through the workplace has decreased from 67 – 56%, indicating that current improvements may be shortsighted.
Lack of support for the act has been something of a failure, even if measures are improving access for some groups. Imposing a federal review on price hikes and making insurance policies more inclusive have been the backbone of implementing the ACA, with $250 million set aside to fund effective rate review procedures implemented in 44 states. States don’t have the power to halt price hikes, however, and can only request greater transparency of the process. Conservative legislators have contested this as simply an extra layer of bureaucracy, and a report by Time claims that a bill has already been introduced in 39 states that will exempt them from some of the new laws.
The measures have been criticized for failing to address the key issue of the cost of medicines, which has risen at double the rate of inflation in recent years, while the number of people taking three or more prescription drugs doubled from 2007 – 2010. The number of people under 65 not receiving appropriate care due to cost rose from 10 – 14 % between 2001 and 2010, while the percentage not receiving prescription drugs rose from 7 – 11%. Despite better coverage for those with insurance, 35% of uninsured individuals did not receive medical care compared to only 7% of those with private coverage. The act also fails to address racial, ethnic and gender disparities in service provision. While the number of uninsured 19-25 year olds decreased from 34 – 28% in 2011, white adults are still twice as likely to receive healthcare as Hispanic adults.
As a long-term strategy, the success of the ACA will not be evident for some time to come, and it’s likely that long-term benefits will necessitate short-term sacrifices. In the meantime, analyzing its effectiveness relies on one’s ability to source relevant data and interpret it according to wide-reaching developments and trends in a number of fields.
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