Healthcare at The End of 2013

US Healthcare 2013Listening to the rants of those outraged with Obamacare, you’d think our current healthcare system is something to be proud of, and probably difficult to improve upon. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

This article reviews some of the problems with our current healthcare system, and how some of the changes ushered in by Obamacare (more officially known as the Affordable Care Act, [the “ACA”]) might help.

The High Costs of, and Low Access to, US Healthcare

According to a recent comparative survey of international healthcare systems by the Commonwealth Fund (an organization committed to promoting a high performing US healthcare system), Americans have a more difficult time getting the healthcare they need, and pay more for that care, than in almost any other developed nation.

The astronomical costs of our healthcare system pose a formidable barrier for many Americans, who, when ill, don’t visit a doctor because they can’t afford it. This cost barrier is due in a large part to the fact that we have the highest number of uninsured people among all developed nations surveyed. Uninsured people are much more likely not to seek out the healthcare they need. When you know you must pay out of pocket- those high doctor bills can definitely scare you away.

Even for people who can afford healthcare in the US, the higher costs, unfortunately, do not translate into better care. Our healthcare system does not provide any better overall care than that the care available in most other, much more affordable, healthcare systems.

Changes in the US Healthcare System Under the ACA

Clearly our healthcare system has room for improvement, but what are some of the changes we can expect once the ACA takes effect?

The biggest change might be greater access to healthcare for many more Americans. This is partly because many more Americans will have health insurance, including those with injuries or pre-existing conditions. The ACA requires all Americans to obtain health insurance (or pay a penalty if not covered by March of 2014), unless covered by Medicaid (which is available to more people under the ACA).

Additionally, people on Medicaid should have better access to doctors. Because the ACA raises the amount reimbursed under Medicaid, it’s likely that more physicians will accept Medicaid patients.

The ACA will also change the way your health insurance policy looks- you will actually be able to read and understand it! Rather than pages and pages of small type and language that reads like gibberish, the ABA requires insurance providers to issue a standardized, four page summary of coverage in plain English. This will make shopping for a policy, and actually knowing what your policy covers once purchased, much easier.

Costs of the Affordable Care Act

Of course the ACA will come at some cost to the American public. One of those costs is an increase in Medicare taxes. The ACA raises some Medicare taxes to pay for expanded coverage.

It’s uncertain what will happen to the costs of healthcare insurance premiums. Whether your premium costs will go up or down depends on your income level, and the benefits and costs of your current coverage. Because more healthy, younger people will enter the insurance pool, premium costs should go down on average. Also, governmental subsidies will help with premium costs people in lower income brackets. This might provide slim consolation, however, if you are one of the people who face increased premium costs under the ACA.

Problems with the ACA Insurance Plan Enrollment Process

Of course, for changes under the ACA to occur, the enrollment process needs to work. The October 1, 2013 introduction of the online insurance exchange was a dismal failure of technology, and enrollment numbers suffered because of it. Hopefully by January 1 of 2014, the problems will be fixed, enrolment — particularly among those in the younger age bracket — will get up to its expected numbers, and we can look forward to some much needed changes in our healthcare system.

 

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Author: Nik Donovic