Okay, here's some MUCH overdue information on what the Affordable Care Act actually does, including the changes that have already taken effect and the ones that will later. As you'll find, the main aspect of it, the massive expansion of Medicaid coverage, takes effect on January 1st, so that is not yet in place, but is coming down the pipeline fairly quickly. That's the measure that will ultimately reduce the ranks of the uninsured in this country by tens of millions. (Medicaid is the program that subsidizes the poor...and beginning next year also most low-income people...to purchase health insurance on the market. In other words, the program underwrites the cost of purchasing insurance for said groups of people.) But lots of other benefits are already in place, including ones that have benefited my mom and myself directly. My family has a history with breast cancer, for example. My mom is now enabled, as a result of this law, to get mammograms for free. That's a real benefit. So was the rebate check she recently received because her insurance company spent less than 80% of its revenues on actual health care. Neither of those things would have happened without the new law. One measure that will likely benefit me took effect yesterday: the provision covering contraception for free. (No co-payments, no deductibles.) And, needless to say, the measure to take effect at the start of 2014 requiring that insurance companies stop charging women higher rates just because we're women will also likely benefit us both. And so when I hear politicians (such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who ironically HIMSELF authored the state-level legislation in Massachusetts that inspired the "Obamacare" law in the first place) proclaiming that they'd like to see all this repealed and prevent the rest of it from ever taking effect, I'm rather unsympathetic to it.
Some on the left have criticized the ACA on the grounds that it doesn't go far enough. That's obvious. It leaves the private, for-profit insurance industry intact and it virtually doesn't cover immigrants at all. The former of those things is particularly problematic in that it guarantees that actual health care costs will ultimately continue to rise, and very substantially, even while insurance coverage will increase. The current regime of things, even with this new law in place, cannot be sustained. It's too expensive and inefficient. Eventually we're going to have to socialize our insurance system at minimum because that will be the only way to keep rising administrative costs under control (not to mention that it's only way to actually cover everyone). The successful passage of the ACA, however, has created an added momentum in that direction. My native Vermont, for example, subsequently passed a law implementing a socialized medical insurance system in this state, which will take effect in the coming years. Montana is in the process of doing the same now as well. And momentum for socialized insurance regimes is building in many other states now too.
Feminists have often criticized the ACA's failure to cover abortion procedures for free, or even to ALLOW women to have abortion procedures covered on the same insurance plans that they receive their ACA benefits from. Those are serious and justified criticisms since the latter aspect of that in particular actually hurts access in a significant way. HOWEVER, it's clear that the ACA benefits women overall, including in many ways that are specific to women and women's reproductive rights. I've highlighted the provisions covering mammograms and requiring that insurance companies charge women the same rates as men, for example. Concerning reproductive rights, this law is a net gain for women in that it provides free coverage for contraception, which the vast majority of women would prefer over the abortion option anyway. Women tend to recourse to abortion only when contraception has not been an option. The measure of the ACA that took effect yesterday will massively help ensure that it is an option for many more women.
In short, there is no good reason to actually oppose the Affordable Care Act. There are lots of shortcomings to it that are worthy of criticism and there is much yet to be done in the way of getting from here to a system of socialized medicine, but I believe that such criticisms should be offered within the framework of fundamentally supporting the ACA. Just saying.