In defense of the Affordable Care Act

As both economic and legal criticisms mount, people must look at the evidence at hand.

by Anant Naik

In an interview on CNN, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz explained that he plans to rely on “Obamacare” for his own family’s health care package. This comes as an interesting surprise, as Cruz has been a firm opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

If Cruz truly believed that the ACA was a loathsome policy, he could no doubt have led by example and bought a private insurance plan. The reality is that the ACA makes sense.

In addition to the act’s medical benefits discussed last week, its legal and economic implications are also relevant when considering the measure’s impact.

Quite frankly, the economic criticisms of the ACA are unfounded. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, predicted that the ACA would cause 2.5 million employees to drop from the labor force. More predictions circulated that consumer spending would decline and other sectors of the economy would collapse.

In fact, we’ve seen the opposite occur. Consumer spending increased by 3 percent last year, a figure largely attributed to health care spending. Furthermore, in the first three months of 2014, health care spending increased by 10 percent, adding $40 billion in net spending. The demand for health care that many people perceived as miniscule has shown itself to be massive.

But that’s not all. The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.5 percent, and employers across the country have hired 11.3 million more employees since the ACA’s inception, according to the Brookings Institute. In fact, the rate of job growth has increased in the past few months as the government has begun to enforce the law’s employer penalty provisions. It’s becoming harder and harder for opponents of the ACA to say it is legitimately harming the nation’s economy.

Another criticism of Obamacare comes from a legal perspective. The health care mandate raises a philosophical question: Should the government have the power to penalize those who refuse to buy health care by raising their taxes?

Before answering this question, I want to reiterate a point I made last week — people who lack health insurance are a liability to society because they’re less likely to seek preventative care or immunizations.

The Commonwealth Fund quantified these hidden costs (excluding the health impacts) for taxpayers. The total is $30.6 billion every year.

Clearly, being uninsured results in many costs to society, both fiscally and in terms of people’s health. Holding uninsured people accountable is not only fiscally responsible; it’s also a matter of justice.

Obamacare receives tremendous criticism even though it brings justice and medical benefits to millions of Americans. Perhaps as this policy continues to move forward, critics can put their differences aside to do what’s right for health care reform in America.