After the 2016 election, Presidents Obama and Trump were having lunch, during which Trump said, “Look, Barack, I promised I would repeal ObamaCare on day one in office, and I want you to know, I’m still going to do it.” President Obama sighed and said, “Well Donald, I can’t stop you, but I imagine you’re still going to fund the Affordable Care Act, right?” “Absolutely, that’s here to stay,” replied Trump.
Though humorous, this joke acknowledges the “black hole” which our health care system has become, considering there are many who yet realize the two laws are one in the same. The confusion regarding the ACA is telling of the lack of education the U.S. has regarding one of its most influential pieces of legislation. Sure, you and I have our sound bites in order to save face with colleagues, but who really understands the current state of our health care system? Regardless of political ideology, it’s clear that the health care issue is only growing, isn’t going away, and affects us all.
According to healthinsurance.org, the ACA is saving Utahns money as our insurance premiums rank as some of the lowest in the nation. Prior to the ACA, premiums nationwide rose 97 percent between 2000 and 2008. Since 2008, the rate of increasing premiums has decreased to 43 percent, and many experts contribute this to the ACA marketplace.
In Utah, 87 percent of ACA participants receive some form of government subsidies to aid in paying premiums, and while some premiums rise, other insurers are reducing rates for 2018. Additionally, the Urban Institute found that the projected national spending on combined medical services between 2014 and 2019 is now $2.6 trillion less than originally projected in 2010.
So, why do some politicians despise the Affordable Care Act? They will say, “Obamacare is threatening the financial futures of families across our state,” as written by Sen. Orrin Hatch in his 2014 op-ed, but findings say otherwise.
When questioned about their ACA marketplace health insurance, a local small business owner (who requested anonymity) responded, “Prior to the ACA, I was paying $650 per month in 2008 on a family insurance premium, which later jumped to $800 a month in 2010, with a deductible that seemed impossible to reach.”
This same individual’s 2018 premium is projected to be below $300 per month, with a reasonable deductible. This person also shared that although they never voted for Obama, they admit the ACA “is the best thing that ever happened to small business owners like me and if Utahns think they can’t afford health care in this state, they clearly haven’t done their homework.”
I don’t deny there are individuals who have been affected negatively by the ACA, but there are far more people who benefit from it than suffer. The Affordable Care Act is good for Utah, and though it certainly has its faults, a recent alternative bill would leave 22 million Americans without affordable coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a diabetic dependent on insulin, I would inevitably be one of the many deemed “uninsurable.”
The new Health and Human Services nominee, Alex Azar, was involved in large profit increases for insulin while at Eli Lilly, causing prices to rise by 20.8 percent in 2014, 16.9 percent in 2015 and 7.5 percent in 2016. When Azar started working at Eli Lilly in June 2007, the price for a vial of Humalog (insulin) was $74, and in January 2017, it was $269, as reported by The Nation.
If the ACA were repealed today, 145,000 diabetics in Utah could be left without insurance, causing insulin-dependents to pay the $269 weekly cost for this life-saving medication. Utahns would not be alone in suffering from an ACA repeal, seeing as there are an estimated 29.1 million diabetics in the U.S., not to mention the other millions of individuals with preexisting conditions who would inevitably be uninsurable.
Yes, there are aspects of the ACA that need to be improved, but repealing and replacing this law out of haste is simply erroneous. Republicans and Democrats need to shake off their partisan differences and work together to fix what we already have, leaving their politics out of policy.
As for us, our responsibility is to demand our voices be heard and our needs be addressed with true reasoning and an honest effort from our elected officials. If our voices go unheard, then it is our duty to elect someone who will not only listen, but defend the health care of all Americans on Capitol Hill.
Riley Smith is a senior adviser for Millennial Policy Tank, www.re-thinktank.com.