Health care reform: Understanding the ACA without party politics

Elizabeth Peters | Contributing Writer

A few weeks ago, CNBC took a poll about health care reform. In the survey, 46 percent of individuals polled said they were opposed to “Obamacare.” Only 37 percent of individuals were opposed to the law when asked how they felt about the Affordable Care Act. The poll also showed that 30 percent of those polled did not know what the ACA was, compared to the 12 percent who did not know what “Obamacare” was.

The ACA is the correct name for the current health care reform legislation, and “Obamacare” is the term used to further politicize the attempt to change our access to health care. If the government shutdown showed us anything, it was that the argument over health care has transitioned from a debate revolving around how citizens should access health services into a congressional grudge match. The CNBC poll shows us that personality has overtaken policy. Having President Barack Obama’s name intertwined with the ACA means that Americans’ opinions of the law are formed on political party preference versus actual knowledge of the components of the law or the current state of health care and cost in the United States. While most people would agree that insurance companies ought not to deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions, fewer people would agree that something called “Obamacare” ought to be put into law.

New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal published a series of articles about health care costs in the United States, including one article about joint replacements. It tells the story of one man, Michael Shopenn, whose degenerative bone disease qualified as a preexisting condition. Because of this, his health insurance would not cover a hip replacement. Shopenn’s solution to paying exorbitant prices for his hip replacement in the U.S. was to fly to Belgium for his surgery. If he had stayed in the United States and paid out of pocket, Shopenn would have faced possible costs greater than $65,000.

Whether you agree with the ACA or not, it is hard to argue that health insurance and access to medical care is working. No one should be denied health care for preexisting conditions, especially if they affect quality of life. The ACA has begun the process of changing how we will get health care. Most notably, now no one can be denied health insurance for a preexisting condition. As students at Washington University, many of us are under the age of 26. The ACA has created an option for us to stay on our parents’ health insurance plans until we’re well out of college. This hopefully means that many students, when they graduate and begin the process of finding employment, will still have health insurance during the transition period.

The ACA also helps us as young people in other ways. Different preventative services are covered, such as contraception and immunizations. You may disagree with the individual mandate or the Medicaid expansion, but visit healthcare.gov, read the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and become informed. Let your opinion about health care reform be based on the actual policy. We will begin to see what works and what does not, but anything is better than what we currently have.

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