Legislative Policy

Introduction

Law has been an integral component of all societies whether civilized or primitive, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, since the very humble beginnings of human civilization. Societies have always had notions of what is permissible or impermissible and what is right or wrong. At a deeper level, law is a manifestation of people’s ideals.

It is a reflection of a society’s appreciation of its imperfections and the need to achieve order and sustain harmonious interaction between individuals and groups. It is an expression of a society’s desire to guide, direct, and control its destiny in terms of socio-economic and political development and safeguard justice, which underpins societal order.

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This paper is a discussion of the Affordable Health Care for America Act approved by the House of Representatives on 7 Nov 2009. This legislative instrument has attracted important and at the same time, interesting debates from different individuals and groups of the differing sections of the multifaceted American society.

Therefore, this discussion is an addition of pertinent opinions and perspectives regarding the need for the form of healthcare guiding principle provided by this law, which the reader will obviously find worth considering. In short, this paper is an affirmative argument in favor of this critical healthcare legislation.

A Brief Explanation of the Law

Virtually, every sound member of a given society yearns to have good health for a prolonged period, and where possible, prolonged lifespan. In deed, a healthy population is a requisite for sustainable social, economic, and political development. Consequently, the government, especially in a welfare economy, shoulders the responsibility of providing quality health care services to all citizens irrespective of their race, ethnic background, age, gender, religion, or political affiliation.

It also has a duty of ensuring that necessary preventive measures are put in place in order to safeguard the health of its subjects. In fact, within the well-established welfare economies like the United States and the Scandinavian nations in Europe, health care service is more of a basic human right to which all individuals and groups are entitled rather than a commodity that is available for sale in the market.

This democratic principle of governance forms the background that has informed the need for this form of law in the American marketplace (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320). However, it is pertinent to note that, many factors are traceable in the Unites States’ histories, which have influenced its formulation.

The intent of this law is to make available, an inexpensive health care coverage for all Americans and to put a hold on growth in national health care spending and other practical reasons.

This law intends to expand health care coverage to around forty million Americans, who are currently uninsured, by reducing the cost of health care insurance and making the overall American health care system more efficient (OpenCongress Para 1; House Committee on Energy and Commerce 318).

The law comprises a new government-run health insurance plan, popularly referred to as a public option, meant to compete with private insurance companies in health care coverage (OpenCongress Para 1).

It provides that all Americans should have health insurance and outlaws denying coverage because of a pre-existing health condition of an individual (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 318). It also includes surtax on individuals with an income exceeding $500,000.

Broadly speaking, this law seeks to introduce strong insurance market reforms in to U.S healthcare system. Its proponents believe that the system has dire broken aspects that disadvantage millions of the helpless Americans.

According to House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to improve the situation, the law has sought to introduce a new national health insurance exchange in order to ensure that “…individuals and small groups can purchase health benefits, with a choice among private insurers and a new public option competing on a level field” (319).

Another important intention of the law is the enhancement of a shared duty among government, individuals, and employers in matters of health care coverage. Therefore, under this law, employers, apart from small employers, are expected to provide legally recognizable health benefits or contribute toward the costs of health care. In addition, individuals are expected to have health insurance.

The law is meant to facilitate new insurance changes and supervision by the state and federal governments with a view to create an economy that promotes competition and choice. At the same time, the law seeks to ensure that health coverage is made available for Americans who are less privileged and who need help (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 319; Jacobs and Skocpol 215).

Policymaking and implementation, in a democratic culture, is hardly a preserve of the government exclusively. Various relevant stakeholders of a given socio-economic sector have a right to take part in the formulation and implementation process of a policy, especially policies regarded as critical. Therefore, various active institutional participants took part in the creation and implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act 2009.

Thesis Section

This paper is an assenting argument in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act of 2009. As pointed out earlier, the provision of quality and affordable health care services is a core responsibility of the American government. However, it is important to note that private health care sector plays a critical role in the provision of health care services.

There are many reasons that support my agreement with this important law. First, from a constitutional and moral point of view, all Americans have, and should enjoy, an inalienable right to quality and affordable health care services. As such, the government has the responsibility of intervening on any health care matter that comes as an obstacle to citizenry access to quality health care services.

Health care coverage is certainly a big issue of national concern with respect to any government that has due respect for its citizenry’s well being, because it touches on individuals and groups’ ability to access quality health care services when need be. For instance, the available statistics from the U.S Census Bureau approximated that, over 45.7 million Americans were uninsured as of 2007 (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320).

This was equivalent to about one-seventh of the American population. Yet, even though the American government spends hugely on health care, it scores averagely, on quality-of-health care indicators. Therefore, the Obama administration’s success in instituting this legislation was timely and highly welcome.

Second, there are sufficient economic reasons that necessitate the need for this legislation. Rising healthcare costs are a critical public policy concern and a major impetus of the requisite to reform the U.S healthcare system.

For example, in the year 2008, the U.S spent roughly $ 2.4 trillion, or 17 % of GDP, on national health (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320). Here, it is pertinent to note that the government is always under pressure to ensure fair spending on all socio-economic and political sub-systems that are under its management.

Therefore, it is economically practical to reform the healthcare system in order to curb unnecessary and preventable budget strains on government, families, and businesses among other socio-economic sub-systems, which are critical to sustainable development.

Moreover, there is an apparent reduction in healthcare coverage and substandard quality in the U.S healthcare system. This legislation is viable because it promises to provide shared responsibility among employers, individuals, state, and federal governments on matters of healthcare service provision and acquisition.

While we recognize the benefits of the government’s non-interference in an economy, it is equally significant to appreciate the fact that market forces alone are not sufficient in cushioning the economically less privileged from the rising costs of health care. As a result, the government should intervene and to facilitate competition and choice where possible.

This law will ensure that the uninsured and financially less privileged Americans have an affordable public option to turn to for healthcare coverage. The competition and choice introduced by this legislation will cushion millions of Americans from the current health insurance coverage and premiums, which have been growing swiftly (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320).

Furthermore, these laws will relieve employers from exorbitant healthcare coverage for employees and their families. In the past and currently, employers have been encountering an ever-increasing challenge of paying expensive health benefits as costs of health insurance rise, while at the same time trying to cut on labor costs in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive market (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320).

Thirdly, from a moral viewpoint, the Affordable Care Act will assist in reducing the rampant inequalities in access to health care among the Americans. Currently, racial and ethnic minorities, low-income Americans, and underserved populations tend to have higher rates of sickness, reduced access to healthcare, and fewer treatment alternatives (HealthCare.gov Para 1). In addition, these groups are also more likely to lack health insurance in comparison to other groups of the population.

The Affordable Care Act will reduce disparities in health care access, by addressing significant health care access and initiating improvements in the health care personnel and public health. It also provides for critical expansion in community health centers to promote access to the required health care services (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 319; HealthCare.gov Para 1).

It also intends to improve health care personnel investments by increasing financing of training for basic care doctors, public health professionals, and nurses with unique attention to the labor force diversity and the requirements of the health care shortage departments (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320; HealthCare.gov Para 1-6).

It also seeks to reduce disparities by investing in local public, state, and territorial health infrastructure. Finally, it promises to make improvements in research and embrace policy improvements, in both community and clinical preventive services, and removal of cost sharing on particular preventive services (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 320).

Finally, yet importantly, there is an evident close link between access to affordable and quality health care services and health insurance. Unfortunately, there has been a sharp decline in health coverage, which is even projected, by the relevant stakeholders such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies, to continue if the U.S’ healthcare system will remain unreformed.

The IOM points out that, health coverage is fundamental to personal health and wellbeing because, for the uninsured people, there is a gap between health care needs and acquisition of health care services regardless of availability of some safety net services (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 322).

Moreover, the IOM asserts that high numbers of people without health insurance may undermine health care for people with health insurance (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 322). Concisely, high levels of uninsured, and underinsured, individuals in the U.S present critical challenges to public policy makers.

These challenges necessitate the reforms of the health care system and health insurance industry, which play a significant role in facilitating individuals and groups’ to access health care services (House Committee on Energy and Commerce 322; American Association of College of Pharmacy Para 2).

Therefore, the Affordable Care Act is a giant step towards the United States’ efforts to make its healthcare system more efficient.

Opposing Views

As mentioned earlier, policy creation and implementation is not an exclusive function of the government. Rather, a process that attracts inputs, views, opinions, and ideas of various individuals and groups with stakes. In other words, the making and implementation process of a given policy faces support and opposition almost in equal measure.

Unfortunately, various relevant societal groups and stakeholders in the sector view implications of a particular policy as either beneficial or unfair. Therefore, these social and political formations seek to lobby legislators to pass, amend, or even reject a given proposed bill depending on their perceptions of a bill, as well as, their interests in relation to changes provided by a given legislative policy.

Perhaps, the Affordable Health Care for America bill encountered the toughest opposition than any other legislative policy proposed by the Obama administration (Vivar 7). The toughest opposition to the Affordable Care Bill came from the Republicans. For Republicans, the Democrats’ idea of the government assuming a leading role in health care insurance market was incompatible with their ideas. Therefore, the Republicans strongly opposed the idea of a public option.

Unfortunately, even though this law remains a highly contested issue, the major focus of the arguments is based on partisan issues, instead of an in-depth review of the actual policy. For instance, according to Georgetown Public Policy Review, contrary to claims by government organs such as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this law is neither cost effective nor able to facilitate reduction in the amount of money spent on national health care system (Para 1).

This opposing camp asserts that, even though the Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the deficit by about $ 230 billion during the first decade of its implementation, the overall health care reform will cost the government $ 938 billion over ten years (Kahn, Karl, and Wolf cited in Georgetown Public Policy Review Para 2).

These opponents argue that, in order for this law to help the government save money, instead of inflicting costs up on the taxpayers, the controversial Medicare cuts must occur and that the estimated costs aught to have been projected correctly; something which, in reality, remains relatively unknown (Georgetown Public Policy Review Para 2).

The opposing camp also denounces the prospects of the Affordable Care Act helping employers to save money on health care costs as promised by this law. The dissenting camp holds that as opposed to helping employers reduce save money on health costs, health care costs are projected to increase apart from for three percent of all employers. In turn, because of the current American economic instability, more people will lose their jobs.

Therefore, given the factor of time, this camp maintains that the United States’ unstable economy should focus on job creation now, as opposed to running the risk of rendering more people jobless. The antagonists further opine that, the need for waivers by employers from the government as a temporary fix meant to help them maneuver around these new health care regulations, is an indication that its legal requirements are not practical (Georgetown Public Policy Review Para 4).

Consequently, if companies fail to ask for waivers from the government, they must comply with regulations of the new health care policy, which opponents regard as unrealistic; or be forced to hire more temporary or contracting workers instead of full time employees.

Irrespective of the apparent opposition to the Affordable Health care Act, the most important fact is that all groups acknowledge the need to reform the U.S health care system.

They only differ on the important question of how then the system should be reformed to make it efficient. While we cannot pretend that the Affordable Health care law creation, and its implementation process, will not cost our government substantial amounts of money, the ultimate benefits promised by this law are worth its costs of implementation.

It is economically arguable that the more broken the U.S health care system is now, the more it shall cost the government to reform. Therefore, participants should guard against the dangers of being over obsessed with the cost of effecting necessary reforms into our health care system at the expense of the long-term benefits that are bound to accrue from this law.

After all, we cannot dissemble that our current healthcare system is perfect, or that another alternative law will be perfect. In other words, even though this law has its own flaws, it is a perfect starting point for establishing sustainable and implementable health care reform.

Conclusion

It is evident, now and in the past, that the American healthcare system requires sustainable reforms through a legislative policy that is realistic and implementable.

This paper supports the Affordable Health Care for America law of 2009 irrespective of the unavoidable flaws, which are usually common in any given policy. Its benefits outweigh its implementation costs and leave a room for any changes that can make it better. In deed, it is now a fact that, this bill will always be the starting point of any proposed health care changes.

Above everything else, fear of competition should not be given a room in our quest to establish a health care system that is responsive to our diverse socio-economic privileges and needs. Therefore, a public option is worth considering given the inability of our economic system to cater for the needs of all people uniformly and fairly.

Works Cited

American Association of College of Pharmacy (AACP). Affordable Care Act Implementation, 2011. Web.12th
August 2011.

Georgetown Public Policy Review. The (Un) Affordable Care Act. Feb. 4 2011. Web.12th August

2011.

HealthCare.gov. Health Disparities and the Affordable Care Act, 2011. Web.12th August 2011.

HealthCare.gov. Understanding the Affordable Care Act: Introduction, 2011. Web.12 August
2011.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Report of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on H.R. 3200. Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 2010. Print.

Jacobs, Lawrence, and Skocpol, Theda. Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know: What Everyone Needs to Know Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

OpenCongress. H.R.3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act, 2011. Web.12 August 2011.

Vivar, Luis. Obama’s Health Care Reform 2010: From Change to Concession?: Health Care Reform as an Example for Structural Resistance of the American Political System to Needed Change. New York: Grin Verlag, 2011. Print.