The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday – marked a historic moment in the push to ensure adequate health care for all Americans, especially the 32 million without insurance.
The health care overhaul is expected to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next 20 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The soaring costs of medical care in the U.S. are unacceptable, with coverage gaps that contribute to an estimated 45,000 deaths each year, according to a study by Harvard Medical School researchers.
Some of the new bill’s provisions go into effect in the next six months. Health reform will establish insurance exchanges, mandates and tax credits to push for maximized coverage.
By September, children won’t be denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions. They can remain covered under their parents’ plan until age 26.
Other changes – to be enacted soon – include a Patients’ Bill of Rights and free preventative care.
New tax credits for small businesses to purchase coverage should alleviate concerns that companies can’t afford to pay for employees’ insurance.
Critics may claim it’s unethical for Americans to be forced into having health insurance when they are unable to afford it by any means.
However, the mandate, which takes effect in 2014, will act within constitutional limits to promote a long-lasting culture of responsibility from patients, insurers and health care practitioners when dealing with life and death.
It also allows special exemptions for extreme economic hardship.
This system will be funded with help from a small 3.8 percent surcharge on investment income of people who make more than $200,000.
There will also be increased taxes on procedures like cosmetic surgery and other services like indoor tanning.
These measures, along with cutbacks to the Medicare program, are responsible, non-drastic means of paying for a necessary investment in the country’s future.
Some opponents have already called for the law’s repeal – mostly a group of Republican state governors claiming their state sovereignty was violated by the health care overhaul.
Their demands are neither justified nor realistic and probably insincere.
“This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994-style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the ‘doughnut hole’ and charge seniors more for prescription drugs?” David Frum, speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, said on his blog.
Despite calls for more tea parties this summer, it seems the silent plurality has been satisfied.
According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken after Obama’s approval of the bill, 48 percent of Americans think this legislation is “a good first step” that should be followed up with deeper reform.
The bill is a much-needed piece of legislation and should be the foundation for further positive action.
Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.