A deadline is approaching and not for homework or midterms.
March 31 marks the last day to arrange for qualifying medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. After that, people get slapped with a fee and still have to pay any medical bills out of pocket.
The fee is called the “individual responsibility payment” and it’s aimed at discouraging those without medical insurance from remaining uninsured, according to Healthcare.gov.
Since it’s currently illegal to refuse emergency care to anyone, those with serious medical needs and no insurance to pay for preventative care wind up waiting until their condition is bad enough to admit them to the emergency room. As well as being inherently unsafe, this can lead to incredibly hefty bills and even bankruptcy for the person receiving care. And, when they go unpaid, they result in higher costs from insurance premiums to tax hikes for everyone else. There are some free organizations, like The Lifesavers Foundation (lifesaversfoundation.org), who offer a free mobile medical service to those in need. However, it’s not feasible for everyone without insurance to rely on services like these to seek medical help.
However, this fee doesn’t actually solve the problem of people remaining uninsured. Rather, it just levels a new expense on people who usually can’t afford insurance in the first place, while giving them no coverage in the event of illness or accidents.
The simple solution is for America’s 45 million uninsured adults to enroll in qualifying medical insurance, including but not limited to: private plans, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Tricare and Obamacare.
For those who cannot afford it, though, or for those who are unaware of their insurance options, the fee charges at least 95 dollars per person this year, and it goes up significantly for 2015 and after.
The fees would be tracked and enforced by the IRS, according to an article by Jennifer Davidson: “The Penalty Fee for Not Having Health Insurance in 2014: How Much Is It and Who’s Exempt?” For those with insurance, there will be a new form required as proof when tax season comes around. For those who do not have it, there will be yet another charge for the IRS to garnish wages.
Though lack of coverage is a problem in America, this seems like an inadequate solution and a blatant plug for Obamacare. The argument for or against nationalized healthcare is an unnavigable abyss on both sides. But this fee, as part of the Affordable Care Act, doesn’t stop taxpayers and insured households from bearing the burden of expensive medical treatment for the uninsured. It simply penalizes people for being uninformed or unable to pay.
There are other solutions that could be applied. Preventative care is possibly the most effective way of minimizing massive healthcare costs and incentives could be given to care buyers and insurers alike to make these services more available.
Similarly, tax breaks and other forms of incentives could be given to businesses to extend insurance to part-time employees, offsetting the costs businesses face by their own fees and penalties under the new healthcare legislation.
As it stands, however, this fee appears to be nothing more than an ill-thought-out way of making the Affordable Care Act appear more successful, at steadily increasing costs to taxpayers.