You wouldn’t think that politics would impact nursing beyond the general way it impacts all Americans, but the changes enacted by the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, affect us and our patients at a rather intimate level.
Like most things in Washington, the Affordable Health Care Act is the subject of much political spin, and finding fair and balanced information on the reform is about as easy as finding help for a four alarm code brown.
What are the good things about this bill? What should concern us as nurses?
Depending on your political slant, various internet outlets have clearinghouses of information. For the more conservative viewpoint, you may want to look here.
If you lean toward a more liberal bias, then this resource can tell you what your side is saying. It may help to read each site to glean the truth hidden in the spin.
Thousands of words could be written about the Affordable Health Care Act, and indeed, many thousands already have been.
It may help to know what the basic pros and cons of the bill are, and then to get some insight into what your fellow nurses are feeling about healthcare reform. If you are new to the debate, here’s the least you need to know.
Pros and Cons of the Affordable Health Care Act
The first pro generally trotted out by those who support the Affordable Health Care Act is that the bill, at least on paper, means that 30 million of the 40 million uninsured Americans will get coverage.
Among the healthcare reforms touted in this bill include no annual or lifetime limits, children can stay on their parent’s health insurance to 26, and the FDA has more power to approve cheaper generic drugs faster.
For nurses, this means that fewer patients will come to the ER for their only healthcare, the costs associated with the uninsured will not have to be absorbed by the hospital, and more patients will have the opportunity to access the system.
Another positive is the inclusion of preventative and wellness treatment for those on government insurance.
In addition, the bill seeks to reform health insurance companies by ensuring that 80 percent of the profits made by the company should be returned to the subscribers.
Other benefits pointed to by supporters are the increase eligibility threshold for Medicaid, closing of Medicare coverage gaps, and system rewards to practitioners who provide better quality of care over quantity.
In the current scheme, doctors tend to receive higher payouts for the number of patients they move through their practice.
Although the bill does have several positives, many negatives are also present. The first con is the cost of this program. It is estimated that it will take about 1.1 trillion government dollars to fund the increased healthcare in the Affordable Health Care Act.
Nurses already pay for the uninsured that come through their facility’s door with lower wages and difficult hospital budgets.
The increase in funding for this bill has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually higher taxes.
Those who oppose big government argue that this bill will simply pull more money from hardworking Americans.
The bill also forces smaller businesses to give insurance to their employees. If they don’t, they are subject to a fine.
Of course, to avoid this, many business will cut hours, cut employees, or stop hiring, potentially torpedoing the economy.
Another con is the Affordable Health Care Act insistence that all insurance providers and employers cover contraception.
For instance, many Catholic hospitals do not include coverage for birth control under their health insurance policies for workers. This is a clear violation of their beliefs under the new bill.
The most talked about negative about the bill is the tax on consumers who do not carry health insurance. This means if you do not have insurance through your employer, you must purchase it or risk a fine.
Again, this puts the onus of paying for the bill on the average American.
Other cons pointed to by critics are the taxes on large businesses to fund the reform, the short term rise in insurance premiums, and deep cuts into Medicare, among others.
Many feel that the bill either disturbs a system that is fine the way it is or completely approaches the problem from the wrong angles.
Voices from the Front: Mighty Nurses Speak Out
Recently, Mighty Nurse asked how nurses on the front lines feel about the Affordable Health Care Act, and as in the general population, the reviews are mixed. Poster sblymiller states, “Healthcare definitely needs reform, but this plan is not the way to go about it . . . I don’t see how making everyone have insurance will fix the system.”
A good point, as who is going to pay for the insurance?
However, we are in a caring profession, ministering to those often less fortunate than us.
LisaRN brings up a good point with, “I like the idea of everyone having health insurance some of my friends call me a socialist, but I have seem too many patients die in the acute care setting needlessly waiting too long to get care over having no insurance.”
Many nurses on the front lines have seen the bureaucracy fail the patient.
Another good point addresses the actions of members of Congress. “First of all… If it’s such a good health care plan than why is the gov’t officials exempt?” nurseC points out.
It is true that members of Congress are attempting in the legislature to be excluded from Obamacare, but all of them have some form of insurance now while many, many Americans do not.
The disparity is not made better or worse by the Affordable Health Care Act, when thought of in this light.
Finally, kari sums it up with, “The Affordable Care Act may have some limitations and cause a lot of ruffled feathers, but finally, a step in the right direction.” Maybe not exactly the right direction, but it IS a step.
Healthcare should not be only for those who can afford it, but it seems that this bill has many problems that need to be addressed.
The opposition has failed to offer any rebuttal, and that could at least open the discussion into real healthcare reform.