The political turmoil surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may have contributed to the governmental shutdown in 2013, yet President Obama’s administration has still succeeded in passing the act into law. Now the question is no longer about its existence, but its performance: how will the ACA actually do in the real world? It’s been off to a rough start so far, but the long-term results will be anyone’s guess.
The inability of HealthCare.gov to handle large amounts of web traffic has been one of the most visible and self-destructive failures of the enactment of the ACA. To mitigate enrollment losses caused by website crashes, the ACA’s supposedly immovable enrollment deadline has been extended to April 15. This extension was intended to give people a chance to finish their application process if it was interrupted by technological issues.
Giving people a chance to sign up sounds all well and good, but there are a number of problems that arise when pushing back the deadline. First of all, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified March 12 before a House committee that the deadline would not be pushed back. This makes it seem as though the Obama administration is going back on its word, which decreases confidence. Secondly, as CBS reported, the “federal government … is effectively relying on the honor system” to sort out who gets to enroll. This gives a wider window of time that people can sign up while rates are still low – the Chicago Tribune reports that “insurers already are warning that health insurance premiums are likely to rocket higher, possibly by double digits, next year” because “the ratio of probably healthy to possibly unhealthy enrollees evidently isn’t as high as the White House had hoped and expected.”
However, Obama released a statement saying sign-ups on HealthCare.gov are at 7.1 million. Some public opinion is on Obamacare’s side: Gallup reports that two-thirds of people without health insurance are unhappy with their lack of coverage. In other words, about 22 percent of the national population would like to see a serious revision to the health care situation.
Though the ACA seems to have made it over some stumbling blocks, its future remains uncertain. As of March 15, Gallup reported that 66 percent of American adults are satisfied with their current, largely non-ACA health care. In addition, the number of Americans who believe the ACA has negatively affected them has risen from 19 percent to 23 percent. Thus, Gallup predicts that the majority of currently satisfied Americans will “be one of the headwinds to broad acceptance of the ACA. When a system is seen as working well, it is usually more difficult to propose major changes to it.”
To relate all this to life at Principia, let’s look at some legislation that will affect Christian Scientists positively. To adherents of Christian Scientists, the ACA poses an unusual problem: the law requires that Americans pay for health care of some kind. But Christian Scientists turn to prayer instead of medication to heal themselves. Thus, paying for health care is usually not what Christian Scientists plan for. With the ACA, people who don’t pay for health care have to pay a penalty to the government. For some Christian Scientists, the enactment of the ACA would mean shelling out cash for following religious beliefs.
However, the Equitable Access to Care and Health Act (EACH) offers a solution: its summary on Congress.gov states that it is intended to “allow an additional religious exemption from [minimum essential health care coverage requirements] for individuals whose sincerely held religious beliefs would cause them to object to medical health care provided under such coverage.” Basically, Christian Scientists wouldn’t be required to pay for ACA. So far, the act has passed in the House, and has also been introduced to the Senate. It’s a good start for EACH.