Mailbag: Burdens of Obamacare

Below are few of the most common questions I’ve received in response to my Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed on the failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help low-income Pennsylvanians.

Why’s it bad for college students to stay on their parents’ plan longer?

Some readers rightly point out that a college student (under age) could stay on their parent’s health insurance plan due to a new federal mandate. While this is true, the so-called slacker mandate isn’t free. Either the parent or the “child” will have to pay for the additional coverage, and it isn’t much less than buying an individual plan.  Moreover, insurers charge higher premiums for everyone because of this mandate, adding to the cost of coverage. 

Premiums were going up anyway, why blame the ACA?

Secondly, readers note that insurance premiums have been rising for some time, long before the ACA. Not all of the recent increases in premiums are because of ACA mandates, but let’s not forget the ACA was supposed to make health insurance more affordable and reverse this trend, not maintain the unaffordable status quo.  It has clearly failed on this count. Moreover, based on the data from states setting up exchanges, premiums for insurances plans on the low end will be dramatically higher than today. Even the Society of Actuaries predicts folks in the non-group market will see monthly premium costs rise by 28 percent.

Isn’t it immoral for people to profit from health care?

Finally, many readers argued that it is simply “not moral” to profit off of health care. But profit encourages individuals to provide services that others need.  Doctors saving lives should be well paid, and thankfully can profit from their work (or else there would be a lot fewer doctors). Are farmers bad because they profit off of growing the food you eat to live? Profit ensures those serving us are encouraged to do their best for a mutually beneficial end- whether that’s a clean bill of health, a higher paying job, or fresh vegetables.

In contrast, socialized medicine throws profit out the window and the system becomes all about conserving resources as opposed to finding ways to improve care and cut costs. Avik Roy puts it well, “[W]e might just find that the profit motive is not the enemy of high-quality, universally accessible health care — but rather its most effective servant.”