The increasingly complex (and failing) health care law

Another problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it did not address some of the underlying causes of the high cost of health care in the United States.  Any serious efforts to reform health care and reduce costs should have included tort reform and malpractice insurance.  Since the late 1980s, the American mainstream media outlets have aired numerous stories of people who have sued for medical malpractice and have been awarded millions of dollars – and often the awards were not proportionate to the “injury.”  Nearly ten years ago, while I was in graduate school, I remember that a local television station ran a story about a central Illinois woman who had accepted a cash settlement rather than pursuing a lawsuit against the hospital and surgeon.  The settlement was somewhere near  two or three million dollars simply because during her appendectomy, a doctor had left a sponge inside her body.  Rather than risking a trial that could have awarded her a lesser (or greater) amount and the negative publicity, insurance companies for both the hospital and the doctor chose to make her a generous offer to drop the suit. Yes, while most would agree that she should be entitled to some monetary damages for her suffering, most would agree that it probably should not have been in the millions of dollars.  This is why any serious efforts at healthcare reform should have addressed tort reform.

 

Another issue not addressed by the Affordable Care Act was catastrophic healthcare coverage and Social Security Disability (SSD)/Social Security Insurance (SSI).  Under the guidelines of SSI, a family of four could be devastated if a family member became completely disabled and had not worked enough quarters to be eligible for SSD participation.  Under SSI guidelines, eligibility is determined by the disability and the family’s gross income.  As private health insurance limits are met and SSI is implemented, the total amount of family assets, including income, are considered even though only one family member may face a debilitating illness or injury.  If the non-disabled adult generates too much income, then the family member is considered ineligible for SSI coverage, often leaving the family without any financial assistance or insurance options for the disabled family member.  As a result, the employed spouse is now forced to leave their job and seek a lower paying position as other family assets are sold to ensure SSI eligibility.  Healthcare reform should have addressed this issue too, but it is unknown if the Affordable Care Act will actually provide relief to hundreds of thousands of Americans that have found themselves in this situation.  In fact, it was

Another problem with the law is that it places the Internal Revenue Service as the government agency in charge of determining who is in compliance with the law and assessing “taxes” for those who are not participating in the healthcare exchanges in compliance with the law by maintaining a minimum standard of healthcare insurance. The American public has always distrusted the IRS; just getting a letter in the mail with the IRS logo sends waves of panic over anyone that receives them.  Not only does the IRS become the storehouse of all our financial data, but the new regulations literally gives them the ability to know your health information as well.  It creates a national clearinghouse of the most intimate information about the individual tax payer that has ever existed within the United States.

Another disaster for the Obama administration was the website that was to aid the expected millions who planned to enroll in the various healthcare exchanges.  So far, it is estimated that only 3% of the projected American population has utilized the website to purchase health insurance.  As has been reported by almost every major American media outlet, the website is easily hacked and contains a potential treasure trove of personal information.  Already there have been hundreds of web-based scams that have already begun to take advantage of those who are not web savvy.  There have even been evaluations of the Affordable Care Act’s website, www.healthcare.gov, that claims the very design and coding of the website has actually caused more problems than what they were designed to solve.  As the nation as watched this component of the Affordable Care Act unravel from its initial debut, more questions begin to surface about the reliability of the exchange program and the availability of affordable healthcare that will not cause further deterioration of the national economy.

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Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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