Is the new federal health care system making people sick? Well, perhaps not literally. But as the deadline for obtaining health insurance looms, people are sick and tired of hearing about it, and are reluctant to sign up. The deadline for purchasing a health care plan is March 31, and the pressure is on to make a decision or pay the price–an initial $95 fine for not obtaining insurance, which will increase next year.
The effectiveness and accessibility of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been hotly debated since it took effect Jan. 1, 2014, with many citizens uncertain about the ACA. Some guidance on how to sign up has been offered by the administration, insurers, volunteer groups and community organizations throughout the country, yet for a good number, the ACA is still elusive.
While practical guidance is good to sort through the technicalities of signing up, the headache is also in trying to understand exactly how this new health care machine is supposed to work. New insight into the ACA has been offered by former senior health advisor and ACA architect, Ezekiel Emanuel. In his new book, Reinventing American Health Care, Emanuel discusses what the new system is about and why people should like it. Emanuel argues that the development of the ACA is an achievement of global importance and is a landmark act that is more important for the United States than Social Security or Medicare ever was.
Dennis Rosen of The Boston Globe wrote a good overview of Emanuel’s book and explains that, as one of the insiders of the program, Emanuel helps foster understanding of the health care system. The book outlines why a new health care system was necessary, emphasizing that the United States not only had the worst health care system in the world, but it provided unexceptional care that left at least 16 percent of the population without access to services. It also touches on the political history and why attempts at creating an effective system have previously failed. But perhaps the most important part of the book is when Emanuel explains the future of the ACA, its goals and why it has left so many people in a state of confusion.
The goals of the ACA might be the only thing that people understand; that is, making health care more accessible and affordable while improving the quality of care. But is it possible with this new framework? The book might bring some clarity to those who, in seeking a greater understanding of the ACA, buy the book, but in general those who do not will still be left uninformed and feeling lost. Even as the health care deadline approaches, confused citizens are reluctant to sign up.
The reason for this is that the rollout itself was poorly planned, and inefficient in collaborating with those who could really help provide some clarity of the system to U.S. citizens, which is the first basic step in making anything accessible. So far, the ACA has failed to work with people who could help maximize its efficiency: citizens, lawmakers, scholars and health care professionals. After all, the point of socializing the health care system is to make it accessible to U.S. citizens, isn’t it?
Then, there is the complicated supply chain system, which no one was really prepared for. Don O’Neill gives a detailed description of the general failures of the new health care system, primarily organizational neglect and a complicated and unprepared supply chain system. The supply chain system was supposed to be able to provide customers with a platform to shop for providers, and apply and purchase affordable health care. It was also supposed to offer a place for health care providers to promote themselves and their prices, as well as confirm customer decisions.
This sounds simple enough, but the ACA website can be a bit overwhelming, incorporating over 55 companies and connecting to other government systems like the IRS, Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs. O’Neill explains that the supply chain confusion, coupled with the failing software of the website, creates a headache which contradicts the very goals that the ACA seeks to facilitate, which is to bring customers and health care providers together to establish a confident and satisfactory relationship.
The relationship between U.S. citizens and the new ACA has been anything but satisfactory. With the deadline looming, there is still much confusion and reluctance to embrace the new health care system. The reality is that it has failed to be more accessible in the most practical way–by making it more difficult to access.
Opinion by Natalia Sanchez