top of page

Health Insurance: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Every day, whether you switch on the TV, open social media, or scroll through the news, it’s likely something comes up about politics. And when it comes to political debates and disagreements, one topic is standout: health insurance. If you watched the recent Democratic Debates, you may have almost gotten sick of hearing almost an hour of back-and-forth arguing without understanding some things they were saying on the issue. The mere mention of the phrase can immediately make people cower in fear, and that’s understandable. In fact, 96% of people don’t even understand 4 basic health insurance terms. But in a time where the debate on health care becomes a top priority, it’s important to get a good understanding of what’s going on and determine for yourself where you should stand. Below is a simple guide to major health care proposals that hopefully will get you on track to formulating your opinions! (For extra information on understanding terms, definitions, etc., click here to see Policygenius’s helpful Glossary on Health Insurance Definitions so you can keep up with the vocabulary often thrown around by politicians, from “deductible” to “co-payment.” This article won’t focus too much on specifics, but further research is encouraged for such a complex issue).

100% Private Health Insurance

The private sector largely dominates the current insurance system in the U.S. Private health insurance works like any other private service. A customer will pay the insurer to cover them for health care costs. This payment is called a premium. Premiums are paid monthly to an insurer. When an instance occurs where the customer has to pay health care costs, the insurer will either pay for those costs or partially cover them (leaving the customer to pay the rest out-of-pocket). Different insurers have different premiums. Oftentimes, the higher the premium paid, the more coverage is offered.

The Good: So, what would the benefits of having only private health insurance be? Proponents of a free market argue that private health insurers would compete to lower their premiums and offer quality coverage at the same time. In this sense, premiums will vary and become affordable for the lower class, while higher premiums will yield better coverage for those who can afford it.

The Bad: The free market doesn’t seem to be self-correcting in this scenario, however. That’s because health care premiums have only drastically risen in the last few years, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping.

Where The Debate Gets Ugly: Economic Libertarians love to take the free-market approach and want to scrap all government plans and just allow the private sector to do its thing. Conservatives lean toward this proposal but often support an idea to repeal government-run Medicare and replace it with something to still help those who can’t afford to pay their premiums. Democrats are most likely to reject the idea, arguing that government intervention is necessary at the point that people can’t afford insurance. Meanwhile, Switzerland (which is commonly known to have the best health care system in the world) proves them wrong, a country that regulates companies and subsidizes the poor to afford coverage, leaving everyone with care while maintaining only private insurance...

The Current Implementation (ACA and Medicare)

The system in place in America right now has two key features in addition to the private sector: Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medicare is a government-run health insurance program available to people above the age of 65. The ACA essentially provides money to people who can’t afford health insurance and allows people below a certain income bracket to use Medicaid, a state-run program.

The Good: The ACA requires insurers to cover basic necessities, gives poor people more money to afford their insurance, and slows the rise of health care costs by making care more accessible.

The Bad: Unfortunately, nothing in life is free. To implement the program, Obama had to raise taxes for everyone, including those who aren’t even included in the program. Employers also kicked many people off of their employment-based insurance. In response to the ACA, other costs and services saw price hikes in the short-term, which you can read about here.

Where The Debate Gets Ugly: Republicans actually helped to craft Obamacare with Democrats, and a few moderate conservatives have even voted against repealing certain parts of it in the past. However, it seems that neither side is very satisfied with the current implementation of the ACA at the moment. There’s a conservative push to replace it with a cheaper, less regulated system, and a liberal push to make Medicare more accessible to everyone. Joe Biden is one of the few candidates for the presidency that stated that he at least wants to strengthen the ACA (unclear as to what that means) if he can’t get his plan passed, but every major Democrat seems to want to go further…