One of the most common excuses for the disproportionate spending in the American healthcare delivery system is the cost generated by the massive number of uninsured citizens (over 50 million as of 2013). The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was partially designed to address the costs incurred by healthcare providers (and taxpayers) due to uninsured citizens seeking healthcare services.Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, the costs of providing uninsured citizens with healthcare services were absorbed by hospitals, health insurance companies, and the taxpayers. In response health insurance companies raised premiums and healthcare providers raised the baseline cost for goods and services.
The Affordable Care Act contains legislation that relieves taxpayers of their obligations to the uninsured by transferring healthcare costs directly to the uninsured individual. This compounds the financial penalty levied on those who opt out of health insurance coverage by obligating them to repay their medical expenses entirely. The ACA intended to remove the burden from the working taxpayer, but many industry experts have cited the problem this practice can create for those without health insurance – long-term medical debt with no foreseeable means of payment.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act establishes several tiers of public health insurance for citizens. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) also provides small business owners with an online marketplace where they can compare potential coverage plans for their employees. The online marketplace is intended to expand options for people seeking affordable health insurance while simultaneously easing costs incurred by the uninsured by mandating financial penalties for individuals who opt out of coverage ($95 or 1% of their income in 2014). These fees will go toward offsetting those costs. The Affordable Care Act also mandates that small business owners with more than 50 full-time employees provide health insurance coverage for their full-time staff. Like individuals who opt out of coverage, businesses that choose not to insure full-time staff will have to pay a substantial financial penalty for each employee left without coverage.
Taken together, these measures are meant to ease the impact of the uninsured on the US healthcare delivery system and taxpayers alike. The Affordable Care Act represents a significant step toward universal coverage, a healthcare delivery system in which the government distributes revenue from a single taxpayer-funded source. Under universal coverage, all citizens typically have health insurance and access to a wide variety of affordable healthcare services. While the ACA does not create such a funding source, it does set forth some of the conditions necessary to sway public opinion—namely, the expectation that healthcare services are a right to every citizen.
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