Obamacare III: Why All the Big Drama?

May 4, 2014
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Above image via spirit of america

Continuing his Brit’s-eye look at Obamacare, Henry Vespa wonders what all the fuss is about…

So, what exactly is the beef here? Because although most people would be in general agreement with trying to increase health cover in the States, for some reason – and despite it being an idea that the Republicans pretty much originated – there’s a huge amount of political opposition to Obamacare and the PPACA.

Well, the Republicans (the businessman’s party?) have hung their opposition on a couple of hooks. First, they’re not keen on the mandate that any business with over 50 workers must provide health insurance. And that does hold a certain logic; it’s certainly going to be an extra cost for businesses of a certain size. Exactly how much of a problem is yet to be seen because that particular provision has been put back and now won’t be rolled out until 2015. We’ll have to wait and see whether businesses start capping their workforces at 49.

Obamacare III: Why All the Big Drama?
Image via A BCD Creative / Shutterstock.com

The other largely Republican-led challenge was on the grounds that Obamacare was unconstitutional. A number of states maintained that ordering individual citizens to purchase health insurance on penalty of being fined for non-compliance (known as the “individual mandate”) was beyond the powers of Congress. Or at the least, contravened state sovereignty (which sounds to me suspiciously like, hey, only we can treat people like this and we don’t want the federal government getting in on the act).

After a raft of District Court rulings and appeals, all cases were rolled up into one: National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, to be heard by the Supreme Court. Final decision? Well, there was a little restriction on a provision that expanded Medicaid on the grounds that it might impose an unfair financial burden on state governments; but on the main issue, a vote of 5 to 4 justices found that the PPACA was a fair use of Congress’ power to impose taxes. So that’s that. There are a few more cases going through the system but the basic issue of whether the legislation was proper has been settled. Obamacare proceeds…

Obamacare III: Why All the Big Drama?

Luckily for opponents of the Democrats, there have been one or two what you might call teething problems with implementing Obamacare. In other words, the litigation may have run its course but there’s plenty of ammunition left for those taking pot-shots. The most public failure is the healthcare.gov website. This is the promised online marketplace to help individual citizens shop for the best health cover deal and access federal subsidies. States can set up their own and some have, but healthcare.gov should be handling traffic from 36 of the 50 states. Guess what happened? Yep, it pretty much fell over.

Launched in October 2013, users immediately ran into trouble with crashes, data losses (frustrating when you’ve just typed almost all of your details in only to lose it all and have to start again), and allegedly only 1% of interested people actually managed to sign up for a policy. A major PR disaster that you can be sure was globally reported. The site is functioning a lot better now and the Obama administration is touting it as a great success. But then, they would, wouldn’t they?

So, some serious potential problems were facing the rollout of Obamacare, both legal and practical, but it would seem that by now they’ve been largely addressed. Must be plain sailing from here on, no?

To be continued…

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