Last week I shared my thoughts on some of the cons of the Affordable Care Act know more commonly as Obamacare. Today I want to discuss some of the good points of Obamacare. As many of my commenters pointed out, any change in a major system is met with criticism in the beginning. I guess time will tell if Obamacare will become a major game changer like Social Security or Medicare.
Pros of Obamacare
Improved Affordability for Many-If you read my post last week, you know I have a huge concern with the large Medicaid expansion for people who don’t work and have no desire to. That being said, for those who do work really hard but don’t make much money or don’t have an employer sponsored health plan, Obamacare rocks. If you make under the subsidy level (about $78,000 for a family of three) you get help paying your insurance premiums.
I know I have many readers, self included, who do not qualify for a subsidy. They are not happy about insurance premiums going up. However, after years of working in health care for a lower socioeconomic area, I have seen good people who are trying really hard that have not been able to afford insurance for their families. Maybe it’s because they have made bad financial choices in the past or maybe it’s because of things that are beyond their control. Regardless, it’s nice to see this demographic get a leg up.
Telling someone they need an operation or expensive diagnostic tests when they have no insurance ranks right up there with getting a root canal. As an eye doctor, I certainly don’t have to do that every day, but I have had my share of patients with weird eye problems that I know are probably from diabetes or multiple sclerosis or maybe even a brain tumor. It is surreal to tell someone they might have an awful disease, but all they ask about is how much it’s going to cost to go to the doctor.
One hospital stay or surgery could easily cost $50,000 without insurance. Even with the worst plan on the health care exchange, maximum out of pocket cost is $12,700 per year. Yes, this is a lot of money, but not a catastrophic expense. People pay more than that for cars. No one should have to be enslaved to medical bills for the rest of their lives.
No Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion– I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked with over the years who want to retire but aren’t to Medicare age yet. Most of them had some sort of pre-existing condition and could not have gotten a health care plan if they stopped working. God help you if you were diagnosed with type I diabetes as a child or if you had a minor skin cancer spot removed. You were uninsurable. Obamacare guarantees that insurances can’t exclude you based on past health history. They also can’t drop you because you get sick and have expensive medical bills.
Better Medical Records– This one certainly needs some work, but eventually, all providers will be required to use electronic records and transmit information electronically. It is a huge pain and expense to implement an electronic health records system into a medical practice, but it is a much more thorough way to keep track of health information. Can you read a doctor’s handwriting? Also, eventually having all systems synched will cut down on patients who doctor hop and over medicate, intentionally or not.
Affordable Health Care Premiums for Early Retirees– Perhaps this is my favorite part of Obamacare. If I retire at 50, as I plan to do, we should have monthly expenses of around $3000/ month, well below the subsidy level. If we have income from investments, rentals, and self employment, we can live one what we need and invest the rest. By doing this, we should have affordable health care until we hit Medicare age, currently 65. We will pay the price until then, but won’t be slaves to W2 income forever if we don’t want to be. No, this system does not encourage us to make lots of money as “retired” people. Hopefully by then, our money will be working for us, and we won’t have to.
Pros and cons aside, it doesn’t matter much if Obamacare gets revamped or thrown out completely, which could certainly happen.
Because I am healthy and make decent money, Obamacare is not doing anything for me right now. I am not super happy about probably paying more for health insurance premiums without better coverage. However, the Affordable Care Act does have the potential to aid in my early retirement plans and help me keep coverage if I ever do get sick.
Do you see any pros with Obamacare? Is it fair to raise prices for healthy people with a good income to help those who aren’t doing as well?