The Affordable Care Act: A Gold Mine for Corporations – A Disaster for the Rest of Us

We are beginning to see the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – what has been called Obamacare – and it is a disaster. We have a health care system designed for making profit and all this bill does is increase the money to be made within the health care industry, charging us more money for worse care.

Too Poor To Be Sick

Health care is becoming so expensive that many workers and their families just can’t afford to get sick. The costs of getting the care we need are at an all-time high. Since 2010, the amount of money we are paying in insurance premiums, co-pays, and other health care costs has increased 27 percent.

And the profits for the largest companies in the health care industry are at record levels, increasing over eleven percent from 2011. Most of the largest insurance companies had profits between $3 billion to $6 billion last year. These profits are only expected to go up under the ACA.

Last year, about 80 million people, or 43 percent of adults, skipped the doctor or other medical services because they couldn’t afford them. Even for workers who have insurance, 28 percent of them still skipped treatment because of the price. About 25 percent of adults did not fill a prescription or skipped necessary tests or treatment from specialists. And 28 percent of those with a chronic condition like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and asthma, who needed medication, reported they did not fill prescriptions or skipped doses because they couldn’t afford the costs.

About 50 million Americans cannot afford any health insurance whatsoever – this number was 30 million in 2000. About half of all personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S. are caused mainly by health care costs. Overall, health care is a financial disaster for most workers and their families.

More Expensive – More Profits – Worse Coverage

The health insurance companies fought hard to get the ACA passed because they see it as a gold mine. Because the legislation requires people to buy health insurance, these companies expect to be getting money from at least 30 million more people over the next few years. The profits of health insurance companies over this period are expected to increase about $200 billion per year. Many experts expect premiums and health care costs to increase after the ACA goes into effect – from 100 to 400 percent – as insurance companies will raise premiums, and hospitals, drug companies and others will increase their prices. Since the largest Pharmaceutical companies had a hand in writing the health care bill, they blocked any further federal regulations on drug pricing. So prescription drug costs are likely to rise for all patients, increasing the profits of the drug companies by an estimated $60 billion per year.

At the same time, we are paying more money for worse coverage. Under the new legislation, the meaning of “affordable” is very unclear. Many providers are lowering their monthly premiums only to increase co-pays and the amount patients pay for care, drugs and procedures. So “affordable” means patients are actually paying more than they would even if the premium was a lot higher.

So, millions of people are expected to stay or become what is called “underinsured,” which means someone who has insurance but can’t afford the costs to get  the care they need. So now that it is a requirement to have insurance, insurance companies will be making money off of people who are too poor to actually use their health insurance and receive any care.

Bosses Off The Hook

The ACA also requires bosses to provide some form of insurance if they have more than 50 full-time employees. Now they will be fined $2000 per employee if they do not offer a so-called “affordable” plan. But in reality many companies have already found ways to get around paying the fines without losing any money. Some companies are just laying people off in order to reduce their number of employees to get around the requirement.

And now there is an even greater incentive for companies to get rid of full-time jobs, and push more workers into part-time and temporary status to avoid providing benefits. But even if companies do provide some sort of health care coverage, it is  these bare-bones plans that cost the employer as little as possible and force the worker to pay more out of their own pocket for less coverage – many of these plans don’t even cover hospitalization, surgery, X-rays, or maternity care.

Tens of Millions Still Left Behind

A recent study from Harvard school of Public Health estimates that once the ACA fully takes effect, at least 30 million people will still have no health insurance. These will be  people who are not poor enough to be covered from the Medicaid programs but are too poor to afford health insurance. But now they will be punished because of their poverty and have to pay a fine of $95 per year. And they will still have to navigate the safety net hospitals and clinics, like the public hospitals that are losing funding, extremely understaffed and way overcrowded.

But people with incomes between the poverty level and up to four times that amount—$11,490 to $45,960 for an individual—will be eligible for small tax subsidies if they purchase insurance. But these subsidies can only go towards the monthly premiums and not towards all the high co-pays and extra costs, putting even greater financial burden on those in this category. And those with incomes below the poverty level would not qualify for the subsidies at all. The reason for this is because these people are supposed to be covered by Medicaid programs. But most states are not expanding their programs to cover all of these new people.

Healthy Lives Not Healthy Profits

What we can expect from this new health care bill is nothing but a continuation of the same backwards system. The business of health care will continue to dictate our lives, as we are forced to pay more money for less care. The profits of the health care industry will continue to skyrocket. And millions of us will remain without any coverage whatsoever.

There is more than enough money in this society – even from the billions in profits in the health care industry alone – to provide excellent, complete health coverage for everyone. The purpose of providing health care should be to care and provide healthy lives for all the members of society, not to provide healthy profits to corporations.