As I battle the plague from the confines of my virus-infested dorm room, I’ve been spending more time on the Internet lately. In between Netflix (OH MY GOD HOUSE OF CARDS) and Buzzfeed quizzes, I happened upon the most recent Obamacare numbers. According to a Time article from Tuesday, approximately 4 million Americans have used the healthcare website to sign up for insurance.
There are about five weeks left until the end of open enrollment, which is when the fees start kicking in for those who don’t have health insurance. According to Kaiser Health News, approximately 48 million Americans were uninsured in 2012, which is the most recent data available. So while only 12 percent or so of the uninsured may be covered by The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), that’s still a giant step forward for plenty of Americans. The ACA has proved itself, for now, but if the political winds shift, the whole thing might come tumbling down.
Don’t get me wrong. I am more than grateful for Obamacare and the initial consequences. For the first time in a while, several of my own family members have health insurance thanks to the ACA and the subsidies the Obama administration has provided. Before Obamacare, this was actually something that kept me up at night. Every time I go to the doctor’s office, I’m grateful that I have health insurance and realize just how lucky I am. But, this of course makes me angry because the angsty teen liberal inside me thinks that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege.
However, what really scares me is what happens in 2016 or 2020, before all the kinks are worked out. If Americans elect a more conservative president and Republicans have a majority in Congress, I have a guess what will be the first thing on the chopping block. Then those 4 million American will lose the subsidies that could make healthcare affordable.
I’m not saying that Republicans are cold, heartless vultures who will prey on failed liberal social welfare programs. No, seriously, that’s not sarcasm. I truly don’t think that they will intentionally steal affordable healthcare away from millions of Americans. However, I do think Republicans will naturally be a lot more critical of Obamacare in the early years. But this is when it really needs the political support – not supporting it now would be like my parents kicking me out of the house at the age of eight. I could barely reach the top shelf with the Lucky Charms, let alone be independent.
Obamacare is going to cause a lot of problems in the beginning, especially when the bills start rolling out for small businesses and individuals who haven’t signed up yet. An article from just days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ACA relays some important statistics. A June 19 Huffington Post article found that 41 percent of small business owners froze hiring as a direct result of Obamacare. 19 percent planned to cut back employee hours to limit the number of employees they’d have to provide healthcare for.
Forcing small businesses to comply with the ACA is going to cost individual small businesses in the short run, but the long run benefits definitely outweigh the costs. However, whether or not we get to the long run is up to the midterm elections in November and any upcoming federal elections. If small businesses fail to make it through the rough transition period, they will never see the economic benefits of having healthier employees.
Yes, political pundits keep acting like Obamacare is the end of the world as we know it. Here’s a fun fact: Most developed nations have much more expansive universal healthcare laws than we do, and guess what? They’re still functioning, quite well if you ask me!
I’m not pretending that I know the entire law backwards and forwards. I have Christianity reading to do for class! Also, as a math a public relations student – I mean, completely qualified doctor of economics – I clearly understand all of the impacts this will have on our economy. Note: that was a little sarcastic. However, I’m willing to give it a chance. I just hope our politicians are going into this with somewhat open minds.
I’m not asking you or Marco Rubio to love Obamacare. I’m just asking you to give it a chance. We often forget how privileged we are to be able to go to the doctor for low costs or have a necessary surgery without worrying about how we’re going to foot the entire bill. Some 44 million people still don’t have those rights. Maybe we should start thinking of ways to make that happen, rather than how we can take those rights away from the 4 million who just got coverage.
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at [email protected].