Contributed by Shay Gines
WOW, the Supreme Court announced today that it will uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as it has been dubbed by the press. According to the Supreme Court statement, Congress enacted the healthcare plan “in order to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care.”
Whether or not the act would be deemed constitutional and would actually go into effect is a question that has weighed heavily on Americans’ minds ever since it was passed in 2010. Subsidized healthcare has become a key topic especially as the recession has found millions of people without jobs and the assistance of employer-sponsored insurance to cover medical costs for them and their families.
As “freelancers,” indie theatre artists across the country have struggled with this for decades. How many of us have turned to day jobs not just to make the rent, but perhaps more importantly to qualify for affordable health insurance? The Fractured Atlas website notes that “independent workers, such as artists, now make up 30% of the total workforce.” This means that nearly a third of America’s labor force is left to find and maintain health insurance without the benefit of collective bargaining. “We need a new model that echoes the origin of insurance – people joining together to make sure they have each others’ backs when times get tough” Sara Horowitz founder and Executive Director of Freelancers Union says on her blog. “Freelancers recognized this early on. It was only when they joined together as a group that they could leverage their own power. Solidarity works. And that is our touchstone moving ahead.”
Will the PPAC Act provide the changes that our community needs? I believe that these reforms will be significantly beneficial to indie artists. I think some of the most valuable provisions include:
- No annual or lifetime limit on benefits – meaning that your insurance provider can’t cut you off just because you exceed a spending limit. There is some tricky fine print about this and some role out dates. So if this is important to you check out the details.
- You can not be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition – they also can not unreasonably jack up your rates based on a pre-existing condition.
- Young Adults can remain on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26 years old – 15% of the OOB community is 19 to 26 years old. So this provision will allow those artists some stability and flexibility as they endeavor to establish their careers. There are some limitations.
- Creation of CO-OP non-profit health insurance – CO-OP stands for Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans. According to the HealthCare.gov website, CO-OPs are “meant to offer consumer-friendly, affordable health insurance options to individuals and small businesses.” They are basically a group of individuals and small businesses banning together to run their own health insurance. It is a very exciting option. One that I think we will see a lot of in the next few years. If you are interested in this, check out more details.
- It’s Affordable Health Insurance – The bottom line is that it is affordable health insurance that offers more options for many of us who have struggled to maintain health insurance. Maybe we will not be so dependent on day jobs? Maybe???? I can dream.
Are there short comings or a down side? Well, nothing is perfect and when it comes to health care, one size does not fit all. So there will undoubtedly be a lot of growing pains over the next few years. Currently there are a number of valid concerns about such a sweeping reform:
- Increased Taxes – The federal government is already in so much debt that it is mind boggling. Experts anticipate that the U.S. will spend over $1 trillion in the next decade to subsidize this reform. Will this cost be passed on to taxpayers? Will it plunge the country into even more debt? Will the investment pay off in a healthier population that does not need to spend as much money on health care? Time will tell.
- Postal Service Health Care – Have you ever been to the post office? I hate it. Long lines that take forever. Inefficient procedures. Impersonal. Staff that could not care less about you or your business. Hot. Frustrating. Lethargic… The fear is that if the federal government takes control of your health care, it will become just like the post office; bogged down in bureaucracy and that ultimately it will become a regimented machine that does not take the personal needs of the patients into account. Personally I don't think health care will slip into the postal quagmire.
- Individual Mandate – This was really where the constitutionality of Healthcare Act was called into question. The law would mandate that Americans are required to have health insurance or else they would face a penalty – oops I mean a tax. (There are some people who are exempt.) It will be interesting to see how the government deals with this.
Even with these uncertainties and questions I think that it is a step in positive and progressive direction.What do you think? Will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act benefit you?