The preservation of choice has been central to the history of the United States. Although not an enumerated freedom per se, choice is by its very nature critical to our everyday lives and to exercising many of the rights outlined in the Constitution. Recently, a choice that was exercised by many Americans came to no longer exist: the decision regarding which health plan was right for them.
The Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as Obamacare, is commendable in trying to extend coverage to the uninsured, but disastrous as policy and most notably in its implementation (e.g. healthcare.gov). As a part of the Obamacare rollout, many Americans have been informed that their health plans are not "adequate" enough in the eyes of the Obama administration, which has led to millions coming home to letters from their insurance providers notifying them of cancellation of coverage. Although data is not readily available, it seems reasonable to assume that the vast majority of people holding what the Obama administration views as "inadequate" are younger and healthier Americans struggling to survive in a difficult economy (many of whom are in the "lost generation" of graduates who entered a struggling economy) or those who have simply discerned that a catastrophic plan is right for their particular situation.
Just the other day, sitting around Thanksgiving dinner, a friend shared with those around the table that his insurance plan had indeed been among those cancelled. In the cancellation letter from his insurance company, he was notified that although his "catastrophic" plan (with a premium of $189 per month) was being cancelled, he could opt for enrolling in the company's cheapest plan that met Obamacare's requirements at a whopping $390 per month -- more than double his original premium. This significant increase poses a difficult financial decision for a recent graduate, such as my friend. The reality is that this change in his health insurance premium will further restrict his purchasing power as he balances routine living costs, student loans, and the expenses associated with launching a small business in Manhattan. In lieu of strapping himself to a level that would be financially unsustainable, he's opted to pay the fine imposed as a penalty under Obamacare. Now although it may seem as if my friend made a choice, the reality is that the choice was made for him by the Obama administration.
In fact, he took his concern to his local member of Congress by way of a letter. In explaining his experience with Obamacare and facing a significantly higher premium he wrote, "To take a financial blow of this kind would be a severe hindrance to my life and to my ability to plan for the future." Further, he clearly assigns accountability for the law and its implementation, "You voted for Obamacare. You also voted against repealing it. As such, I hold you, the president, and all other congressional supporters of this terrible law personally responsible for the situation I am in." This sentiment and warranted concern is likely shared by many Americans and draws into question the integrity of the health law itself.
As a researcher, my concern with Obamacare is that it's dependent on the premise that young healthy people will make their way to the health exchanges; however, it achieves that objective by relying on bully-tactic regulations that impose rather than invite participation. Further, Obamacare's mandate dictating insurance coverage levels is problematic in that it disproportionately affects young professionals who cannot afford, and likely do not need, excessive coverage. This is not public policy, this is bad policy that will serve to only negatively impact Americans already struggling to survive in a recovering economy.
As a young professional living and working in New York City, I'm fortunate to have excellent health benefits through my employer. However, if not for my employer-paid plan, I would likely find myself in a situation similar to my friend, holding a letter with the word "CANCELLED" and wondering how I would afford nearly $4,800 a year in insurance premiums in addition to $14,000 a year in student loan payments. Sitting there with the letter in my hand, I would come to the same conclusion as my friend and opt for paying the nonsensical fine. Perhaps the Obama administration's logic regarding forcing people onto the health exchanges is faulty in relying on the expectation of mere obedience instead of what is likely to happen: Americans opting for a nominal fine over excessive insurance premiums.
The cause to provide every American with access to care is admirable, however, doing so at the expense of cash-strapped Americans is misguided. Policies that negate the value of choice in the life of Americans typically fail, because they ignore or incorrectly estimate the right to opt out. In order for a health law, such as Obamacare, to be effective it requires adequate support and participation from all Americans across the country; if a law fails to have this support, which Obamacare appears to lack, it's bound to receive a letter bearing the words: "Notice of Cancellation."
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