In just a few short weeks, the much-anticipated Obamacare will become a reality as citizens across the U.S. gain access to federally regulated and subsidized health insurance. For many low income Americans, Obamacare will signal the long awaited end to the burden of unaffordable fees or the fear of falling ill while uninsured. Despite (or perhaps because of) the numerous benefits for the majority of Americans, conservative politicians and Tea Party members staunchly oppose Obamacare and are obsessively campaigning to strip it of its funding. But while politicians choose to deprive their states’ most vulnerable residents of affordable health care coverage, they are simultaneously ensuring that candidates with a similar stance will find it difficult to get elected come campaign time.
Beginning on October 1, Obamacare will expand Medicaid and create a “Health Insurance Marketplace” where Americans who earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level will be able to choose from a variety of affordable insurance options. Medicaid’s expansion alone will offer coverage to around 15.9 million uninsured seniors and low income individuals. And in case you were wondering, there were more than 45 million uninsured Americans as of 2012.
Originally, Medicaid was to be expanded in every state in the U.S., and the federal government was to cover the full costs of newly enrolled beneficiaries until 2016. After 2016, the federal share would gradually decline until it reaches 90% in 2022. Unfortunately, however, in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that the states could choose to opt out of Medicaid expansion. So far, 11 states have done so.
In case it is still unclear how Obamacare actually works, here is a brief summary: Because anything even slightly resembling a welfare state makes the libertarian ideologues cry communism, the creation of universal health care — like the kind offered in every other developed country in the world — will probably never be attempted in the U.S. Obamacare offers the next best thing by using state funds to make private health insurance affordable for more than just the upper-middle classes. In other words, Obamacare uses cost-assistance via the marketplace to lower what middle-low income Americans pay for their insurance. It also regulates insurance companies and health care standards, but doesn’t regulate health care or replace private insurance. Now, those who prefer the invisible hand of the market to government intervention can sleep peacefully at night knowing that the red scare is far away while the invisible hand tightens its grip around their necks. Who could argue with a compromise like that?
Unfortunately, it would appear that even these small steps towards social equality are far too much for the geriatric members of the GOP to handle, and it will be the low income, red state residents who have to suffer the consequences. Not only will low income residents be denied health care, but the decision to opt out of Medicaid expansion will cost the states billions of dollars as they lose access to federal funds and are forced to spend more money on uninsured peoples' unpaid medical bills. Many hospitals throughout the red states are desperately urging their governors to opt into Medicaid expansion, but so far, only the governor of Nebraska has recanted and declared his intention to participate.
In the coming years, those living in states that opted into Medicaid expansion will see a marked improvement in their living standards, while those living in states without this assistance will be able to compare their dire situation with that of citizens reaping the benefits of Obamacare. In other words, opponents of Obamacare are shooting themselves in the feet by creating a political petri dish that will prove which policies work better.
By the time the elections roll around, it will be clear which policies ensure access to affordable health care for the millions of people who need it and which policies are both fiscally irresponsible and inhumane. One could argue that there is a small possibility that Obamacare will be a failure just like the its opponents hope it will be; but let’s be honest, anything the Tea Party opposes is usually a pretty good policy, so their opposition means it’s an almost surefire bet that Obamacare will be a brilliant success.