Should the Welfare of a Country Trump Individual Rights?

Formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform was signed into effect March 23, 2010.The Affordable Care Act (ACA) met opposition at both the federal and state levels. Those opposing ACA either feared that the government was overstepping its boundaries by imposing a government sponsored health care plan, or found the law to be unconstitutional. Is the American government actually breaking the law by trying to provide affordable healthcare for its people?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aims to provide health care for the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans by extending coverage to those searching for a policy to cover their pre-existing conditions, providing affordable treatment and medication, in addition to allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26 and providing incentives for small businesses that provide health insurance for their employees. In exchange for the government providing these services, Americans would have to buy a policy before 2014 or pay a penalty fee.

To understand the oppositions’ beliefs one must understand who stands to lose more if the law is not repealed before 2014, when most of ACA’s mandate go into full effect. Before the Affordable Care Act, both pharmaceutical and health insurance companies stood to make millions from Americans, by overcharging for medication and treatment along with cutting cuts by discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions, and expensive treatments. By placing life and annual limits on health care benefits, agencies were not responsible to cover costs once an individual’s health care plan had reached its limit, whether annual or over the course of a lifetime, leaving patients with chronic illness out in the cold, according to the White House. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individuals could now find health insurance policies that would cover treatment, procedures and medication for conditions existing before the policy went into effect. The health reform also cut costs of both brand name and generic drugs for adults with Medicare, according to HealthCare.gov. While the former health care system benefited pharmaceutical companies, health insurance agencies and investors, ACA benefits the people, by making healthcare both accessible and affordable.

Before the health reform law was passed it faced much opposition from majority of the Republican Party, as well as a few Democrats. Republicans are well known for disapproving any government inference in the market and industry, thus their reaction to ACA, was to be expected. Shortly following the passing of the healthcare reform there were several courts that declared the mandate that required Americans to buy an insurance policy, or pay a penalty unconstitutional. Among the rulings was one by Federal District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida who found that the federal government had overstepped its regulatory powers as stated in the Constitution. Vinson is only one of the many federal judges, senators, governors, and citizens who found fault with the health reform. Is Vinson’s claim valid? Did the United States Federal Government indeed overstep some sort of boundary? The Constitution is already prone to interpretation by the courts, however under administrative law, the government is expected to serve, protect, and provide essential services to its people. In exchange for such service, Americans are expected to give some individual sovereignty to the local, state and federal governments. One would only hope that health insurance for all would be included in those services distributed by the federal government.

It is hard to believe that such a powerful law that can and will impact the lives of all Americans rests on an individual mandate; pay for insurance, support the costs of insurance for your fellow Americans or pay up. It is possible that the mandate could be altered to exclude a penalty fee, however if an American citizen, by choice refuses to buy health insurance, in the event of a medical emergency will end up paying for the costs of treatment, medicine, doctor visits out of pocket, so why refuse the government-sponsored insurance. Therefore the law is in the best interest of its people and has been implemented to protect Americans in both the short and long run.

If indeed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, millions of Americans will once again have no access to health insurance, those with chronic illnesses will have to go without treatment, young adults without insurance will have to live cautiously, and the healthcare system will lie in disarray waiting for another reform or decision made by the federal government that will in no doubt be unconstitutional, stopping short of providing the necessary services for citizens. Federal District Judge Vinson’s argument seems to lack validity, would the health and welfare of millions of Americans not trump the childish squalor for power and money? One would only hope so.

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