In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act — or ACA — was signed into law. Also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare, this piece of legislation represents the most dramatic package of healthcare reforms that the U.S. had seen in recent years.
It was also one of the most controversial. Both sides of the political debate took up battle positions over the Affordable Care Act, and the electorate was flooded with truths, half-truths, and downright misinformation. We’ve tried to set the record straight by telling you exactly what you need to know about the Affordable Care Act.
Image via Flickr by Leader Nancy Pelosi
The main aim of the reforms was to give all Americans universal access to healthcare. This was achieved through the introduction of individual mandates, requiring all U.S. citizens not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan to sign up for private insurance.
The reforms also made it illegal for health insurers to reject customers based on previous health issues, while also creating a minimum standard for health insurance policies across the country.
As mentioned above, the Affordable Care Act is not universally popular. Some critics have identified the Act’s punitive fines for those who don’t sign up for insurance policies as a clandestine way of increasing tax revenue, while others pointed out that the Act’s aims were disingenuous. Rather than creating a system of universal healthcare, the ACA simply made not taking out a medical insurance policy a punishable offense.
The act has also been criticized for putting an already stretched U.S. healthcare system under further duress, leading to an increased demand for healthcare degree graduates. The industry will need to expand if it is to cope with the increase in treatment and care forecast under the ACA, something that critics say the act has not made provisions for.
The planned effect of these reforms is to ensure that no American lacks the necessary insurance for the medical care they may require. In just over four years of the Affordable Care Act being in force, as many as 20 million U.S. citizens have signed up for private health insurance plans, while the percentage of people who remain uninsured has dropped almost 5 percent to 13.4.
The legislation has also made purchasing health insurance easier for the consumer. The appearance of government-regulated insurance exchanges — websites from which customers can compare and purchase policies — has increased transparency in the industry and made it more consumer-friendly.
However, as mentioned above, the Affordable Care Act is projected to lead to a marked increase in the volume of cases the U.S. healthcare system deals with each year. As care becomes more affordable, it is only natural that the number of those seeking treatment — both essential and non-essential — will grow. This leads to an increased demand for professionals in all aspects of the healthcare industry, from nurses and doctors, to administrative and logistical experts.
For this growth to be sustainable, the healthcare industry also requires more MBA graduates and business-minded professionals to join its ranks. As more and more Americans acquire health insurance under the act’s provisions, the increase in case volume will pose new and challenging logistical problems. Just how effectively these challenges can be met and overcome will be key to the future of the Act, and of the healthcare system as a whole.