The Affordable Care Act set off a firestorm of controversy immediately upon its passage in 2010. The Republican Party, led largely by its tea party faction, fiercely contested the law, which would extend health insurance to millions of Americans. Republican opposition to Obamacare is at least partially the result of gross misconceptions of what the law entails. If you actually take the law for what it is, a vastly different, less radical image of Obamacare emerges.
Since its inception, Republican leaders have referred to the ACA as a “government takeover” of health care. That is purely false. Though Democrats initially championed the inclusion of a public option – government-run insurance to compete with private insurers – the ACA eventually passed without one.
At its core, Obamacare relies on the free market. Employers will still provide insurance through private insurance companies. The law gives tax credits to people who cannot afford health insurance, so they can buy insurance from private companies.
This will increase regulation on health insurance, but Obamacare still relies on the private companies and the free market. More business will come to private insurance companies because more people will be buying insurance.
Analyst and author Maggie Mahar said, “Doctors will not be working for the government. Hospitals will not be owned by the government. That’s what a government takeover of health care would mean, and that’s not at all what we’re doing.”
Another myth about Obamacare is the idea of “death panels.” Coined by former Gov. of Alaska Sarah Palin, death panels would comprise of a board of bureaucrats tasked with deciding whether patients deserve medical treatment. Of course, no such death panels would exist.
It is worth noting that private insurers currently operate similarly to the fictional death panels, opting to withhold coverage from patients with pre-existing conditions.
What Palin may have been referring to is a panel created by Obamacare called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is a panel of 15 appointed members, who are subject to Senate confirmation and hold health care expertise, who are given the task to slow down Medicare’s spending. When Medicare grows faster than the rest of the economy, the panel has to cut spending.
According to Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post, “For the past three years, Medicare growth has slowed to the same rate [of the economy].” So the panel does not need to make any cuts to Medicare.
The panel does not decide whether a person can provide for society or if they are worth saving. The panel cannot make decisions on individual patients but on certain cuts to Medicare to control the spending growth. Palin and others have clouded many peoples’ perceptions of what the IPAB actually is by using scare tactics.
This law is complex. In order to be able to partake in the discussion, we need to be educated. An opinion is best taken seriously when it is backed by facts. Republican discourse on the ACA has thus far been shrouded in smokescreens and falsehoods, preventing any real progress from being made. But then again, maybe that is exactly what they want.