Lauren Lewthwaite Last Updated On: August 18, 2023

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Is Obamacare Good for Americans? Find Out Here

affordable care act pros and cons

There’s no doubt that Obamacare is a controversial topic. Depending on your politics, you might support it or not, but either way, there are some clear advantages and disadvantages to the act. 

The Affordable Care Act has been in place for over 13 years at this point, so it’s high time we do a review of the Affordable Care Act pros and cons. After all, it’s your health, your tax dollars, and your rights we’re talking about.

Settle in. Let’s dive into it.

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When Did Obamacare Start?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010 during Barack Obama’s tenure as president. The goal was to get more Americans access to more affordable health care, regulate the health insurance industry, and reduce the costs of healthcare in the U.S. 

Did it work? Keep reading to find out. 

An Affordable Care Act Summary

Before we dive into the pros and cons, it helps to know exactly what the ACA is and does. 

The ACA was a large initiative based on years of ideas from both political parties and the healthcare industry. The ACA revolves around a “three-legged stool” that both improves access to and the costs of health insurance while ensuring that insurance providers remain profitable (and better able to serve Americans). This three-pronged approach involves:

  • Require every American to purchase health insurance to help spread out costs (also known as the individual mandate).
  • Regulate insurers to provide better coverage, even for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Improve Medicaid access and add subsidies to help low-income individuals better access health insurance. 

This three-pronged approach means that everyone should have access to affordable health insurance. However, the individual mandate has since gone by the wayside; in 2019, the penalty for not having health insurance was removed, although the full impact of this to the ACA is not yet known. 

Here are a few specific things the ACA has done for Americans:

  • Gave Americans new benefits, rights and protections around their health insurance
  • Created the Marketplace, a place to buy federally regulated and subsidized health insurance plans (find out if you’re eligible for a subsidy here)
  • Expanded Medicaid access
  • Improved Medicare coverage
  • Expanded employer health insurance coverage

The list doesn’t end there, but it gives you a good sense of how robust the act was. Now it’s time to dive into the Affordable Care Act pros and cons.

The Affordable Care Act Pros and Cons

Obamacare brought many advantages to healthcare for Americans, but it also has its downsides too. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of the ACA so you can get a better understanding of the act and why it’s such a controversial topic.

The Benefits of Obamacare

Let’s start off on a positive note. Here are some of the upsides of Obamacare:

  • Regulated Coverage: Before the ACA, there weren’t many rules around what an insurer had to cover. Now that the Marketplace is regulated, you’ll notice better coverage all around, including access to mental health services, maternity care, and more. 
    • Most importantly, insurers can no longer deny coverage for those with pre-existing conditions; before the ACA, they could be denied coverage or have to pay sky-high rates, because pre-existing conditions are generally unprofitable to insurers.
  • Improved Overall Health: With more Americans accessing health insurance, including preventative care and tests, there has been signs of overall health improvements in the U.S. One specific example is that hospitals can no longer charge for infections that come from a hospital stay, which has had the effect of dramatically reducing hospital-related infections.
  • A Focus on Preventative Care: The ACA widened access to preventative care measures and screenings, with the hope that proactivity can reduce illness and disease down the line. This will, in theory, save Americans money on healthcare and improve their quality of life. 
  • Expanded Medicaid and Medicare: The ACA improved Medicaid and Medicare coverage and expanded Medicaid access, so that more people under the federal poverty line can access health insurance. 
    • One notable improvement is that the Medicare donut hole was slowly closed, meaning that people with Medicare Part D no longer lose coverage after spending a certain amount on prescription drugs.
  • Reduced Cost of Prescription Drugs: For many, it’s not an option to go without prescription medication, despite exorbitant costs. The ACA made prescription drugs more affordable and increased the number of drugs covered by health insurance. In fact, people with Medicare have saved over $26 billion on prescription drugs since the ACA was introduced in 2010.

The ACA had very real, tangible benefits for Americans that improved their access to much-needed health insurance and care. But with an initiative this large, there were bound to be some downsides. We’ll explore those next.

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The Disadvantages of Obamacare

Even if you’re a major supporter of the Affordable Care Act, there’s no denying that there were some downsides to the act. Let’s review them:

  • Job Cuts: The ACA required that businesses with more than 50 full-time employees had to offer health insurance to employees. This created an incentive for businesses to keep employee counts low and reduce hours to skate by this rule. 
  • Cost: Although more Americans now have access to health insurance, costs for healthcare haven’t been reduced and still represent a burden for many Americans. In fact, as of 2022, almost half of Americans say they have difficulty affording healthcare costs and have delayed or gone without care recently.
    • Premiums also increased for many, because insurance companies are now covering a wider range of benefits and covering those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Penalty for Not Having Insurance: One of the key parts of the ACA was the individual mandate, meaning all Americans had to get health insurance (in order to spread out costs) or face a fine. This was eliminated as of 2019, but it still caused major dissent.
    • Often, the penalty was less than the cost of maintaining health insurance, so many Americans simply chose to pay the fine, defeating the purposes of the individual mandate.
  • Taxes Increased: In order to help pay for some of the ACA changes, taxes were increased in certain categories, such as medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Those with higher incomes also saw their taxes increase.  

When the ACA was first put into place, it was a bumpy road. The ACA website had tons of technical glitches, fewer providers were offering insurance plans due to concerns they would lose money, and many Americans suddenly couldn’t use their existing doctor. 

Although the ACA is constantly changing, the initial roll-out left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Those against the ACA also claim that the program uses the wealthy to fund health insurance for everyone else and forces those who don’t want health insurance to have it. 

In Summary: Affordable Care Act Pros and Cons

It’s important to note that all of these advantages and disadvantages relate only to the federally-regulated plans through the marketplace. Anyone can still get private health insurance, and these plans don’t need to follow the same rules and regulations. 

No matter how you feel about the ACA politically, it seems clear that it’s doing what it set out to do: get Americans more access to health insurance. In fact, in the first five years after the exchange was launched, 17 million more Americans became insured. 

Whether or not you support the ACA, it’s important to have good health insurance in place, to be able to get the care you need without stretching the budget. Plus, the peace of mind of not having to worry about what happens if you get sick is pretty great too. 

Give yourself that peace of mind by getting access to free quotes for health insurance here. Find a plan that works for you, and then move on with your day. We’ve got you covered.

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Lauren Lewthwaite Lauren Lewthwaite has been freelance writing for almost five years writing content that ranges from health to insurance and everything in between. Lauren is also a trained translator in French and English and is a dog-mom to an adorable Australian Shepherd.

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