The next president of the United States will be elected in under two months, which is either an extremely exciting or hauntingly terrifying fact, depending on who you are. As November 8, 2016—better known as Election Day in the U.S.—draws even closer, it’s crunch time for young voters to read up on the issues and to make an educated decision.
There are hundreds and thousands of issues, problems and policies that the future POTUS will have to deal with. Few are as important as health care. Our days as content Millennials happily insured on our parents’ or schools’ health plans are numbered. Meanwhile, the reality of true adulthood looms in the near future, which includes shopping around for health insurance. So, for the sake of your mind and your body, make sure you’re informed this election season…especially when it comes to health care.
The Obamacare Debate
One of the most contentious topics of public health in the past several years has been the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. Since it was passed in 2010 by Congress, the ACA has been the reigning law on health care in the nation. The concept is simple: to provide as many Americans with affordable insurance coverage as possible.
Unfortunately, the actual execution of the law has not been quite so simple. Regulations and laws pertaining to Obamacare amount to an estimated 20,000 pages of writing. This is more than 2 million words, or two and a half times as long as the Bible.
Although the ACA was meant to expand choice for Americans while simultaneously lowering costs, individuals and insurers have run into more and more problems with it. This includes rising prescription drugs prices; a glitch-filled health care signup website; high costs on small businesses (which must provide insurance if they have employ than 50 people); and ethical issues concerning the mandate that every single citizen must purchase insurance, or else be faced with a fine.
Clinton and Trump Actually Want The Same Thing For Once
While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have yet to agree on much, both have reached a consensus that the health care system needs to be reformed. But each of the nominees has a distinctive idea of what these reforms will eventually look like.
Both candidates want to lower the cost of preventative care and treatment for Americans—but in very different ways. For Hillary, new federal laws would force insurance companies to cap prices for the care they provide. In addition, the government would require every single state to provide access to at least one public insurance option. The states would also need to expand Medicaid, a government insurance program that assists less wealthy Americans with health care expense, for their respective residents. This plan, if it works, would strengthen two extremely important principles of the current American health care system: Access and choice.
Clinton, an obvious supporter of President Obama, claims that the Affordable Care Act is just the beginning health care reform. She wants to expand upon the ACA, especially through extending insurance coverage to even more Americans. “Hillary believes that we have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America. This starts by strengthening, improving and building on the Affordable Care Act to cover more Americans,” reads her campaign site.
Clinton also promised to reduce copays for doctor appointments, along with additional out-of-pocket costs. In other words, you would ideally be spending less money to stay healthy.
Critics, such as Forbes political writer Avik Roy, have commented that Clinton’s proposals would not be strong enough or drastic enough to offset the negative effects of Obamacare. “She knows that tightening the health law’s screws would be toxic in a general election,” Roy wrote in Forbes. “So, instead, she has proposed incremental half-measures that will have no meaningful impact on the cost of Obamacare-sponsored health coverage.”
Trump wants to accomplish the same goals of lowering national health care spending while effectively providing access to insurance…but in a much different way. First, he's vowed to repeal Obamacare. “Since March of 2010, the American people have had to suffer under the incredible economic burden of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare,” states Trump’s campaign website.
However, experts warn that Trump’s promise to completely repeal and replace the ACA would devastate the economy. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, his health care plan would cost over $300 billion over a decade, even when you factor in his plans to cut spending. The 24 million people who signed up for health care through the ACA would suddenly be left without insurance, in addition to the nearly 30 million people who were uninsured to begin with. That’s an estimation of over 50 million uninsured Americans resulting from the repeal of Obamacare.
“There would be enormous losses in coverage. People would be scrambling to find coverage,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), told the Huffington Post.
Trump’s campaign hopes that allowing insurance companies to viciously compete with one another, even across state lines, would lower costs for Americans through free market economics. Individuals would no longer be required to purchase insurance plans. As a result, younger people, who are usually healthy and are fairly cheap for insurance companies to cover, may decide not to sign up for a health care plan at all. This could send premiums skyrocketing for everyone.
It’s likely, though, that Trump would keep the current rule that adults under 26 years old can be covered by their parents’ insurance plan.
As far as Trump’s plan for Medicaid goes, he hopes that the economy would be SO good that Americans would get jobs, rather than depending on the public assistance. “The best social program has always been a job—and taking care of our economy will go a long way towards reducing our dependence on public health programs,” explains his website.
Trump would also open the American borders to international prescription drug companies—but not to immigrants themselves.
Illegal immigrants living in the U.S. are actually a part of Trump’s cost cutting. Eliminating the “immigration problem” through his famous wall along the Mexican border will supposedly save the U.S. millions in health care spending, according to the Trump campaign site.
So…Whose Plan Is Better?
In this case, there is no outright superior health care platform that either candidate has set out. Rather, it’s a difference of political ideology. Do you believe in more federal government intervention, more regulations on big business insurance companies, and Obamacare’s spirit in general? Or do you lean toward a barely regulated, free market economy that treats insurers as self-interested businesses, rather than guaranteed public health services?
Don’t know yet? Not to worry—you still have about 40 days to think about your answer. Happy voting!