For the majority of Americans, Sunday was the last day to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Healthcare Act. While the federal government has extended the deadline until Feb. 22 for those thwarted by Healthcare.gov glitches, most others will have to wait until November if they want to jump on board. In the next few months, though, millions of uninsured individuals will face the first real penalties mandated by the law.
This penalty this year will be $95 per person or 1 percent of family income. This is the smallest it will ever be, but Democrats are worried that even this minor penalty will be enough to turn the tide of public opinion against them. While many uninsured Americans will be graced with loopholes around the individual mandate, many will not. And if affordability is keeping them from buying health insurance, a $100 smackdown at tax time is going to be an unwelcome surprise.
According to a recent survey, roughly half of all uninsured Americans have no idea that a penalty is coming their way. They certainly don’t know that next year they will have to pay a whopping $325 (or 2 percent of income) if they failed to get coverage by February 15. With 46 percent of Americans already describing health costs as a “hardship” – a number up from 36 percent in 2013 – the individual mandate is about to make Obama public enemy number one.
Of course, the effect on individuals and families is only one part of the equation. Obamacare’s biggest critics are business owners who see their costs skyrocketing. 42 percent of small businesses say they’ve endured double-digit increases in their health care costs over the past year. This has led them to delay investment, cut wages, and slash employment. One needn’t have a Harvard degree to imagine what kind of effect this will have on the economy at large.
We’re only a few weeks away from a major Supreme Court case that could put Obamacare safely behind us. King V. Burwell challenges the subsidies upon which the ACA depends. If the highest court in the land determines that subsidies are history for most Americans, Obama’s signature law will be finished. With a little bit of luck, we could indeed see the end of this national nightmare.
The scary thing is that it could simply be replaced with a Republican version of the same thing. Very few congressional conservatives are saying what needs to be said, i.e., we need to get the federal government out of the healthcare business. We need to increase privatization, put the power of choice back on the patient, and let the free market do what it has always done in this country: make us number one. We are America. We are the land of independence and freedom. We can be great again, but it means putting these socialist ideas behind us.
Unfortunately, no one is willing to make the tough choices.