As the Affordable Care Act continues its rocky start with a less than stellar website launch complete with Senate hearings, healthcare is being overshadowed by the poorly designed website in repair. By all accounts, the Affordable Care Act will deliver to the consumer better coverage, in many cases, at a similar price, especially for those who qualify for the federal subsidy. The law does require policies sold to cover what the White House deems 10 “essential” benefits some of which include hospitalization, treatment for mental health, maternity care and prescription drugs. The new policies also must include a cap on annual expenses something not offered with polices before the Affordable Care Act.
It wasn’t long ago when health insurance companies refused coverage to consumers they deemed unprofitable. Many of these insurers took advantage of consumers every single year by limiting care, denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition or jacking up premiums forcing many Americans into bankruptcy. Health insurance plans and premiums were consistently changing well before the ACA and not in ways to benefit the consumer. The latest attempt by insurance companies is to discontinue policies they know they can’t sell then send cancellation letters to consumers rather than update policies to stay competitive in the marketplace. The same can be said for employers making record profits while cutting hours and health benefits yet blaming the ACA instead covering employees.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetorical tug of war on what role the government should play in healthcare but the previous method for medical coverage was unsustainable and took advantage of too many consumers for decades. According to a study conducted by BlueCross BlueShield an average emergency-room visit costs roughly $383 while the average doctor’s visit was approximately $60. Unnecessary visits to the emergency room are responsible for two critical deficiencies in medical care; it delays care for true emergencies and costs taxpayers billions of dollars. Costs must be shared for the ACA to work the math is unavoidable, while some consumers will see their premiums go down; others will pay more. So does the public share the cost for everyone’s primary care or continue to cover the cost from an emergency-room visit?