Humanizing Obamacare

3920682993_06c6957116Less than three months before the health insurance exchanges open nationwide, more Americans disapprove (49%) than approve (41%) of the Affordable Care Act. For a law that will affect almost every American, these poll numbers are rather abysmal. A multitude of factors have influenced these numbers: Republican scare tactics, the utter failure of the administration to educate the public, skepticism surrounding government regulation, uninformative media coverage, etc. But I believe there to be a innate cultural characteristic that underlies all of these reasons, best exposed by comparison.

The rest of the world looks at all the ruckus the Affordable Care Act has incited and scratches their heads. Television stations in France and Switzerland have run news segments titled, “Why do U.S. Citizens resist healthcare reform?” and a quick perusing of Twitter will confirm a puzzled European populace. Why must Americans be dragged kicking and screaming into a policy that most of the developed world has already implemented? Europeans view healthcare as necessary to modern life; equal access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Americans haven’t embraced this view yet and, unsurprisingly, we’ve dehumanized Obamacare. The economics and politics of the law have already been hashed out and disputed, and so I’ll leave those topics alone and instead offer my bit of humanism.

Currently, my family of four squeezes well over $10,000 a year (about 20% of total income) out of our pockets to cover insurance premiums and health care costs not covered under our plan. To keep rates from rising too much, my parents have allowed our deductible to creep higher and higher every year, so much so that it takes an utter catastrophe before anything is covered.

This Tuesday, my mother, like so many others, will log onto to find that in our home state of Michigan, she will be able to purchase a health care plan for lower than our current cost that covers more than our current plan, all with a reasonable deductible. Combined with a significant federal tax credit that caps our healthcare costs at a certain percentage of income, thousands of dollars of our budget normally reserved for hospital bills and insurance premiums suddenly frees up.

Come January 1st, preventative care will be more accessible and affordable, helping to avert larger health problems, the likes of which lead to my father and sister’s recent costly surgeries. More of our budget will be spent on healthier food and improved housing, which makes us less likely to consume healthcare products. And with all that saved money, maybe we’ll be able to take our first family vacation in ten years; maybe my parents will be able to afford to send my sister to college; and maybe, just maybe, I’ll hear one less dejected sign every time my mom opens the bills.

Obamacare doesn’t allow my family to mooch or take handouts (we’re still paying thousands of dollars every year). It allows my family to live without the constant burden and fear of the healthcare house of cards toppling and crushing us under its weight. Americans must remember that this law wasn’t passed to control us, to spite us, or to harm us. Obamacare came into law with the intention of helping millions of families like mine who struggle to make ends meet every day.

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