Part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, controversy came in the form of a government closure Tuesday, because Republicans in the House of Representatives, which constitutionally must create the budget before sending it to the Senate, want to include a provision that would defund Obamacare. This standoff has led to a shutdown of the government, which includes stopping 800,000 Americans from being paid and closing state parks, museums and zoos as part of the immediate impact.
However, Kevin Baity, Carbondale city manager, said the federal government’s partial shutdown will not have an immediate impact on the Carbondale area.
“There could be programs which are funneled through from the federal government to the state that may not be sent through in a timely fashion, but as to a direct next day impact, the city of Carbondale should not feel any impact whatsoever,” he said.
Kevin Sylwester, an associate professor of economics, said he thinks the shutdown will likely have little to no effect on the economy in the short term, but it is uncertain how a long-term shutdown could affect the economy.
“My opinion is that a short-lived shutdown will not harm the economy much. A shutdown creates another type of uncertainty regarding government policy,” he said. “But to what extent will this uncertainty change business behavior? I doubt if it has a big effect if the shut down only lasts for a short time. A longer shutdown, however, would increase uncertainty.”
The Affordable Care Act, which citizens could sign up for Tuesday, is a law that allows Americans to buy regulated, subsidized, private insurance in an attempt to lower the number of uninsured citizens. The law requires everyone to obtain health insurance by January 1 or face a fine. It will cost most people between three and 9.5 percent of their income to pay for this health care, along with providing young people or low-income Americans with cheap or free health care, according to Obamacarefacts.com, a website dedicated to providing information on the law. The act does not replace private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare.
More than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured last year, according to Kaiser Foundation report. The report listed high cost of insurance as the main reason so many citizens did not have health insurance, because most of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Leslie Lloyd, an associate professor in the school of allied health, said the act has three goals: increase access to affordable health care, improve the quality of health care and decrease the skyrocketing costs of health care services.
“What this means in plain English is that the U.S. government is trying to ensure more Americans receive needed medical care and in a way that they, the patient, can afford the care, while at the same time trying to improve the quality of medical care that all citizens receive and preserve the integrity of health care in this country for the future,” she said.
Lloyd said women, as well as those who are economically challenged, such as seniors and disabled persons on fixed incomes, are several groups that stand to benefit from the act. While the act will help out certain groups of people, there will be some who have to pay more, but who will pay more and by how much is unclear, she said.
“Those that have to pay little are getting subsidized. If it means higher costs for those that do pay for their health care, then these payers are bearing the cost. If the government is directly subsidizing them, then the taxpayer is bearing the costs,” he said.
But Sylwester added that no one knows what kind of impact the act could have on the overall economy and the uncertainty could cause businesses to take a variety of measures.
“The real issue is to what extent this uncertainty causes businesses to become timid and reduce hiring and investment, or to another point, how much will the ACA cause businesses to go with part-time instead of full-time employment,” Sylwester said. “It is regarding such magnitudes that economists/analysts can greatly disagree as to the effects.”
David Yepsen, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute director, said cuts in hours are a real possibility for some workers, but cuts will be different for each business owner.
“Government policies always affect decisions that are made in the economy and this will be another factor in the economic decisions that individuals start making,” he said.
The Affordable Care Act will have a large impact on health care in the country for years to come, Yepsen said.
“I think’s going to be a huge impact and I’m not sure we fully understand how big it’s going to be,” he said. “It is so complicated and so large and affects so many different people that there are bound to be unintended consequences.”
Yepsen said the main reason people oppose the act is because they are afraid of the unknown, especially since health care is a complicated issue for most Americans. He said most citizens are content with their current health care and messing with this system has caused public concern.
There will be problems at first, but once people get used to the new system they will settle down, Yepsen said.
“Any piece of major legislation, there’s an adjustment period,” he said. “People have to get used to it, they’ll have to figure out what it means for them and their family. There will be some things people like and already like about it.”
Matt Daray can be reached at email@example.com or 536-3311 ext. 254.