I'm still sort of amazed that it was Chief Justice John Roberts, an archconservative, who ultimately swung the court in this case... sorta restores a tiny bit of my faith in this crazy system we Americans call government. I was just sure they'd strike it down in yet another crass move of partisan judicial activism. I still sorta can't believe it.
Anyhow, just in case some of you haven't been following this whole saga with rapt attention as I have, I'll give you a quick rundown. First of all, I have to say that this law is far from ideal, and I would have vastly preferred a single payer system. But given the stranglehold that the "health industry" has over this country that was a political impossibility, so we end up with a crazy hodge-podge system... but it is a vast improvement over the status quo.
The law was, in fact, based on Republican proposals made back during the 1990's and was modeled after a state system put into effect by current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney - making it all the more hypocritical and absurd that he's running on a platform of overturning the ACA... but that's another story.
At any rate, the law leaves in place the ridiculous practice of tying health coverage to one's employer through private companies, but it curbs the power of those private companies to deny coverage as they see fit - to people who get sick or to people who have pre-existing health conditions.
It also puts limits on how much they can charge people - stipulating that insurers must spend 80% of premiums on actually providing care instead of just enriching themselves at the public's expense (currently they average about 65%.) It also requires that certain preventative procedures must be covered by all health plans, and doesn't allow insurers to put a cap on benefits.
But for me personally, the most important part of the law is that it puts in place a system called an "exchange" whereby those of us who don't have employer sponsored health insurance can purchase the same sort of coverage that everybody else enjoys.
And while I'm sure you've all heard about the big bad "mandate" requiring people to purchase coverage, what you've probably heard much less about is the fact that the government will provide premium subsidies for anyone making up to 4 times the poverty level. That's roughly $44K/year for a single person and $92K for a family of 4.
The Premium Assistance Credit works on a sliding scale so those at the bottom end will never have to pay more than 2% of their income for health insurance, while those at the top end of the assistance bracket are assured they won't have to dedicate more than 9.5% of their incomes to buying health insurance. I ran the numbers for me personally, and had the law been in effect last year, instead of having to pay $225/month for my individual policy, I would have only had to pay $24/month! Wow... that's a massive difference.
But even without the subsidies, this law goes a huge way toward eliminating the stranglehold that corporate America has over the citizens of this country. Just the fact that insurers have to make coverage available to individuals, and can't turn them away because of pre-existing conditions, or charge them premiums that are 3-4 times what everybody else pays is huge, and it's importance cannot be overstated.
Having either been self-employed or worked with the self-employed my entire adult life, I can honestly say that this law will both change and save lives. I can't help but think of the friends I've lost - people who died from diseases that would have been easily preventable or controllable had they been caught early, but weren't caught because they had no access to preventative care.
I think about a friend with type I diabetes who, in addition to teaching piano full-time, has had to have a separate part time night job, just so she could afford the $850/month that her health insurance cost. Even CatMan, who is un-insurable because of injuries suffered in a mountaineering accident many years ago - if it weren't for the care he receives from the Veteran's Administration, I honestly don't know how he'd be surviving.
The Affordable Care Act means that for the first time in many generations, Americans will finally be free to explore the possibility of not having to dedicate their lives to serving the corporate monster.
I can't tell you the number of people I meet who would earnestly love to open their own small business, or start a family farm, or try their hand at being self-employed, or simply be a stay at home mom, but can't seriously explore the option because it would mean losing their health insurance and opening themselves up to bankruptcy and financial ruin should they get sick. This law changes all of that.
Anyhow, I know the Republican spin and mis-information machine has done everything it can to paint the Affordable Care Act as some sort of draconian maneuver, putting control of our lives into government hands, but that really could not be further from the truth. In fact, the whole point of this law is to protect us from the "health" corporations that are already controlling our lives, and I think when you look at it that way, there's a reasonable argument to be made that this legislation does more to advance the cause of personal freedom in this country than any law since the civil rights act or women's suffrage.
It is my earnest hope that this legislation will allow many people who have been too afraid to separate themselves from corporate America, to finally have the opportunity to free themselves from the indentured servitude of the full time job.
Now we just have to make sure that the Republicans don't overturn it and send us all back into the dark ages again.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this act will help people who want to explore simple living?