In this paper, I consider the topic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example of healthcare policy and the key effects that it can have on individuals. I argue that the effects are most significant, which implies that it is every person’s right and business to work towards the improvement of the legislation. This topic is important to me as a healthcare professional, as a person who needs health care personally and who is involved in familial and friendly relationships, and as a citizen of my country.
ACA has had some direct effects on the well-being of individuals. As a national health insurance program, ACA works towards the reduction of disparities in healthcare, which is of especial significance for disadvantaged individuals (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2012). Moreover, ACA proceeds to expand its coverage; an example is an expansion for people with mental illnesses and substance issues (Beronio, Po, Skopec, & Glied, 2013).
As a mental therapist, I am especially interested in this development, which proves that more attention is being paid to mental health that is fundamental for the well-being of individuals and society. However, the individuals who can afford insurance but believe that they will not gain benefits from it may argue that ACA has a certain negative effect: it introduces fines for being uninsured. The fines have been growing steadily from 1% of household income in 2014 to 2.5% in 2016 (U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2016). Thus, ACA is of importance for those who are not disadvantaged, even though the effect appears to be negative (which is questionable since health insurance is among the most important things to acquire).
Apart from that, ACA has some indirect impacts. Given the planned 30 million additional insurances (Faria, 2012, p. 71), the US healthcare was bound to experience increased strain. Provided the already existing issues of understaffing, inefficient spending, and growing costs (Bodenheimer & Grumbach, 2012), it is apparent that either the healthcare mechanisms manage to improve rapidly and significantly or the quality of care is bound to plummet. From my experience, the latter is likely, even though we do our best to avoid negative patient outcomes. Still, this aspect proves that a healthcare policy is capable of having indirect (and negative) effects on individuals.
Given the existence of negative effects, it is not surprising that the ideas of dismantling ACA have been raised, for example, by Gardner (2014). However, the author considers dismantling only particular provisions and mentions the alternative of revision and improvement. Similarly, Wilensky (2012) studies the issues of fines and funding but does not criticize the ACA vision of affordable care for the majority (ideally, entirety) of the population.
Even Faria (2012), who defines the ACA non-compliance fines as anticonstitutional, does not advocate for the complete abolishment of the reform. Therefore, the work towards the improvement of ACA appears to be a better course of action than its abolishment.
However, our discussions show that some of my peers are uncertain about the possibility of the active involvement of healthcare professionals in policymaking and its positive outcomes. I think that it is important to realize that we can participate in numerous ways, including being active citizens (for example, taking part in elections and signing healthcare-relevant petitions), attracting public attention to the issues of healthcare (including the use of social media to this end), and suggesting solutions (including publications in healthcare-related journals) (Gardner, 2014; Sommers, Buchmueller, Decker, Carey, & Kronick, 2013). To sum up, we have multiple channels of affecting policymaking, and, most importantly, so do other individuals while we have the means of empowering them by providing relevant information.
Given the range of impacts that a healthcare policy has on individuals, it is apparent that individuals should be involved in policymaking. ACA is a good example of a policy that has numerous flaws that are primarily visible to us but affect a larger population. In my opinion, healthcare professionals must be involved both as individuals and educators to empower our nation to improve current policies.
Beronio, K., Po, R., Skopec, L., & Glied, S. (2013). Affordable care act will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for 62 million Americans. Web.
Bodenheimer, T. & Grumbach, K. (2012). Understanding health policy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Medical.
Faria, M. (2012). ObamaCare: Another step toward corporate socialized medicine in the US. Surgical Neurology International, 3(1), 71-75. Web.
Gardner, D. B. (2014). . Nursing Economics, 32(6), 323-326.
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2012). .
Sommers, B. D., Buchmueller, T., Decker, S. L., Carey, C., & Kronick, R. (2013). The Affordable Care Act has led to significant gains in health insurance and access to care for young adults. Health Affairs, 32(1), 165-174.
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2016). The fee for not having health insurance. Web.
Wilensky, G. (2012). The shortfalls of “Obamacare”. New England Journal of Medicine, 367(16), 1479-1481. Web.