By Zack Steele
So, if you haven’t noticed, a lot of attention is being paid lately to what the implementation of the Affordable Care Act means to the general public. I wish I had a straightforward answer for everyone, as it seems as though I get the question here in my office several times a day.
I look at the ACA from two points of view. First, as a provider who gets paid by insurance companies, I am leery about what I will actually get paid for procedures and exams I perform. Will our office be able to make the same amount of money for the same procedure? Will we be inundated with new patients? One positive I can find is that insurance companies in the exchanges are required to offer vision care for children under the age of 18. This means that many undiagnosed vision problems can potentially be fixed.
Secondly, I look at this as a business owner. Will insurance be less expensive for my employees if we participate in the exchange? We have always offered health insurance to our employees. We just felt like it was the right thing to do for our staff. Now, with these health exchanges being set up, there is a distinct possibility that my business can save $1,000 per month by purchasing insurance basically identical to what we currently have.
Most of the literature that I have read shows that plans offered in the ACA will reduce premiums a small to medium amount, based on what state you live in. The ACA also offers tax credits for those who buy insurance based on income.
My opinion on the ACA is still one of uncertainty, but for working middle class people it appears to be a way to buy health insurance at a discounted rate based on supply and demand. The socialistic part of the ACA really falls under the Medicaid expansion portion of the bill. This expansion is not happening, at least for now, in states like Alabama. I’m not sure if the ACA will have an effect on the economy or not. The theory behind it is that if people spend less on medical costs, they will have more to spend on other things. I, nor anyone else, know if that is going to play out.
Right now, I am not losing any sleep over the Affordable Care Act. I do not think it will be the horrible thing that so many have made it out to be, nor do I think the ACA will solve all the country’s health care problems. My general feeling is that everyone in Washington, D.C., should take a breath, let the process play out and make changes as needed over the next couple years. What we are headed toward in terms of this current gridlock in regard to the government shutdown and a possible default on our debts we owe is dire for the country’s economy and our nation’s future.
Dr. Zack Steele is a 2003 graduate of the UAB School of Optometry. His practice, Trussville Vision Care, is located on Chalkville Mountain Road in downtown Trussville.