The case for the Affordable Care Act

With many more people now insured, one would think that political support would follow.

Anant Naik

Since its inception, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has insured more than 16.4 million American adults and decreased the uninsured rate to about 13 percent. Yet it has faced tremendous opposition in the government. I challenge the notion that the Affordable Care Act harms people. If anything, it has offered tremendous medical benefits that have been both predicted and observed. It’s easy to break discussions about the Affordable Care Act into three sections — medical and health impacts, economic impacts and legal or constitutional implications.

First, the health and medical benefits to the ACA are significant. In a study in conjunction with Harvard Medical School, the American Journal of Public Health showed that before the ACA’s implementation, uninsured adults had a 40 percent higher risk of death than insured adults did.

These researchers furthermore concluded that the lack of health care itself was a cause for 45,000 deaths yearly, as many patients had preventable conditions for which they did not receive treatment. To put that into perspective, the study concluded that every 12 minutes, one person died due to the lack of health care.

Health care is vital to the well-being of our fellow citizens.

The Institute of Medicine found that patients who lack health insurance are unlikely to seek preventative care like regular doctor’s appointments or vaccines. In addition, when patients who lack health insurance are involved in car accidents and other such incidents, they face high costs that few people can bear on their own. Thus, there’s value in being insured. The ACA makes it easier for millions of people to become so.

However, I think the ACA’s greater impacts lie in preventative health care. As the Institute of Medicine points out, uninsured children and adults do not get immunizations that would prevent many diseases.

The European Union and the World Health Organization observed in a large report that immunizations and vaccines together are the best strategy to prevent epidemics of largely preventable and curable diseases. It’s not an illogical conclusion then that individuals who are uninsured affect society at large. If they’re more likely to let diseases develop — and perhaps even spread — then they endanger public health and contribute indirectly to health care costs.

Article 25 of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including … medical care and necessary social services.”

Today, making health insurance affordable is a necessary social service. Too many people in our country are being denied the right to receive adequate medical care whenever they have a medical problem. Let’s ensure that this right is guaranteed for everyone.