This handy primer boils down America’s complex new health care system.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” pursues many strategies to achieve near-universal health insurance coverage; this short, accessible treatise outlines the major changes in bite-size sections that address the new responsibilities, benefits and rules various stakeholders will encounter. Uninsured Americans will face a legal mandate to get coverage or pay a penalty, but some will get help buying it: Medicaid expansion will cover the poorest, while low-income workers will get subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. Small businesses will receive tax rebates if they provide workers with insurance, while larger employers will have to provide it or pay fines. Insurance companies will face new, far-reaching regulations specifying how much they must spend on medical expenses, how much profit they can earn, who they must cover and what services they must provide; in return they have access to a huge, potentially lucrative pool of new customers. (Part of the logic behind the reform, the authors say, is to require younger people—most likely previously uninsured—who rarely need medical care to pay premiums that will subsidize sicker people whom insurance companies will be required to enroll.) The authors touch on past health care reform endeavors—from the New Deal to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s efforts—and briefly revisit the battle over the passage of the Affordable Care Act, giving a scrupulously evenhanded rehash of arguments pro and con. All of this is explained in clear, easy-to-read prose; at times, material is repeated in several sections, but the redundancy is often helpful in conveying complex policy wrinkles. The book isn’t a detailed user’s manual for obtaining health insurance—especially since details of insurance exchanges and other aspects of the law are not yet finalized—but it includes a schedule of upcoming changes and an extensive reading list for readers who want to delve into the minutiae. Either way, this digestible overview will help take the mystery out of the large, confusing reforms.
A useful, reassuring roadmap to the altering landscape of health insurance.