The Government Meltdown and Obamacare: What’s Next?
By Daniel Zeevi
To little surprise, Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year that started on Tuesday. Haggling over spending on Obamacare, they left the nation in a state of flux. One of the main responsibilities of Congress is to pass bills to fund the government budget. When this doesn’t happen, you get a government shutdown (partially, anyway) where many services like federal loan programs will come to a halt while some functions deemed critical like mail, Social Security, and air traffic control continue to run.
In fact, most of the 3.3 million government workers are considered “essential” and will continue working, but approximately 800,000 government employees will be forced to sit at home according to a CNN report. This isn’t the first time the government shut down, either: in 1995 the government closed its doors for 21 days, lasting into 1996. The Senate will reconvene soon and try to negotiate a deal between parties. But what’s the holdup, here?
Obamacare or the Affordable Healthcare Act
The majority of House Republicans want any new spending bill to include provisions that either defund, derail, or limit Obamacare, while Senate Democrats aren’t willing to budge. In the Democrats’ defense, they claim the law will expand healthcare coverage to more people and reign in on the costs. While the budget plan isn’t directly tied to the new healthcare law, Republican’s are using it as a bargaining chip. Since many Republicans believe that the new domestic policy will devastate the country, they believe it’s worth it to disrupt most major public services in order to stop the new healthcare law. The law requires all Americans to have health insurance. Opponents to the law say it will hurt businesses and criticize the medical device tax included, saying it will cause more jobs to be sent overseas.
Will a government shutdown really kill Obamacare? No, because most of the money that funds Obamacare comes from new taxes and fees that are not tied to the new government budget as well as spending cuts to programs like Medicare. Despite this, Republicans and certain special interest groups like Generation Opportunity (a Koch brothers production) will stop at nothing to sway the judgement of the American public against the health care act. Just check out two of the creepiest ads (below) you’ll see anywhere, let alone in American politics. The ad looks like some sexually deviant clown from Stephen King’s It shows up at your doctor’s appointment dressed as Uncle Sam, catching you with your pants down. The ads are part of a dramatic six-figure campaign this fall touring 20 college campuses across the nation to discourage young people from opting into Obamacare, reported Yahoo.
The message “Don’t let government play doctor” flashes onscreen as a woman screams at the creepy Uncle Sam, with a soundtrack of chilling circus-like music:
The gentleman’s version is just about as creepy:
Maybe it’s time we move past the hype and break down what Obamacare really does.
What Is Obamacare and How Will It Affect You?
Here is the simplest explanation of Obamacare you will find:
Nearly half of us will be insured through our employers, just like today, and nearly one-third will be covered through Medicare and Medicaid, too. About one in 10 will buy their own health insurance, with another 30 million (a little less than 10%) remaining without coverage.
1. Workplace or Employer Coverage
If you’re already covered through your workplace, not a whole lot is going to change. In fact, some advantages like spending caps on how much you have to pay out of pocket and free preventative care might be added to your insurance policy. Unlike now, insurance companies will not be able to inflate prices for people who are sick. The biggest change coming is that businesses with 50 or more employees will be required to provide insurance or pay a penalty. This will mean that more people will have helpful medical coverage! And while small businesses, or those with less than 50 employees, will not yet be required to provide their employees insurance, the government is setting up special insurance marketplaces that will provide these small businesses with special incentives to start doing so, including temporary tax relief.
Not much change will be seen with government-provided Medicare coverage, either, with more senior citizens receiving coverage for prescription drugs and better preventative care.
Major changes are coming for Medicaid, however, which will expand to cover more adults not eligible today! If your income is $15,856 or less for a single person, Medicaid will cover you. The catch: the Supreme Court ruled that each state is able to decide whether or not to take part in the expanded Medicaid program. This means that for those living in states that support the expanded Medicaid program, the Feds will cover most of the insurance costs for those who qualify. Those living in states that don’t comply, however, will be left with many of the same options they have today. This is why people who really need these health benefits need to be informed of the facts, which we’ll see a little later is far from the case.
3. Buy My Own
For those who aren’t covered, there will be Health Insurance Marketplaces popping up everywhere, like virtual insurance megamalls with private insurance companies competing for your business for various levels of available coverage options. Each plan will be required to cover basic necessities like hospital visits, doctor visits, maternity care, mental health care, and prescription drugs with additional tax benefits. However, similar to Medicaid, each state can choose to get on board with this or not. The federal government, however, will provide marketplaces in those states regardless of what the state governments do, so there shouldn’t be a huge difference here no matter what state you live in. Another factor worth mentioning is that each marketplace will operate under strict rules, and no insurance offering can turn anyone down or charge more for pre-existing conditions. It’s hard to fathom how anyone with a heart wouldn’t favor this rule, except for a few insurance executives who might stand to lose financially. Also, unlike today, men and women will pay the same price for insurance. Prices for older folks will come down, while the cost for younger people will increase. To keep costs down for younger people, those under 26 will be able to stay on their parents’ plans, and those under 30 will be able to enroll in special plans.
4. No Coverage
In reality, though, 30 million people are likely to remain without coverage. Some of you might be thinking, why not wait until you get sick to buy insurance? Well, you could miss out on the special enrollment periods, a risky play, not to mention that the Individual Mandate requires you to buy insurance or pay a fine! But if you’re really broke and absolutely can’t find insurance, don’t panic: the government will wave the fine.
In the end, it’s hard to argue that many more people won’t be covered by the new healthcare law. Much of the money to fund these measures will come from taxes aimed at the healthcare industry itself, tanning salons, and the richest Americans. Health insurance companies are going to be earn less profit, too.
Not painless, but somebody’s got to pay.” – Kaiser Foundation
As 2014 approaches, how are you going too be covered? How would you like to be covered? Figure out the best option for you!
Open enrollment in the new marketplaces runs from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Learn more at Healthcare.gov
2014 and Beyond
So even with a government shutdown, Obamacare will still move forward in 2014.
Interestingly, most polls show people do not support Obamacare in name but do like what’s in it. Jimmy Kimmel decided to conduct an experiment by sending out a camera crew to ask people which they thought was better, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare? Which of course is a trick question, since both names refer to the same thing.
As funny as the video is, the truth is that many people are not up to speed with the facts. This leads to constituents saying things or voting for ideas that they don’t truly believe in because they didn’t fully understand what was at stake, either because they were tricked by some attack ad or just have a political party bias that supersedes all common reason. Either way, it’s best you get your story straight before you end up on Jimmy Kimmel Live too!
Do you think that in the near future everyone in the world should have access to affordable health care, rich or poor?
So we ask you: Given your options, are you in favor of Obamacare, or do you think the Affordable Care Act is a better idea?