Obamacare once helped tens of millions more Americans acquire health insurance, setting the stage for the rate of increasing healthcare costs to slowly diminish over a period of decades. That promise proved difficult for many Americans to understand, which is why Trump promised his supporters he would gut Obamacare at the earliest opportunity. Although he has mostly failed in that venture, Trump managed to remove the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act, allowing people to opt out without incurring a steep penalty come tax season. That meant millions more Americans decided it made more sense to go without health insurance instead of incurring the penalty.
The consequences of these decisions have been felt this year because of the coronavirus pandemic raging across the globe — which is only getting worse during winter — almost as if it was a sign from the heavens for us to wake up and do what is right by our people.
Earlier this year, Congress eased the financial suffering of some of these millions by guaranteeing employees the right to two week of sick leave should they be diagnosed with COVID-19. They had the option to renew this part of the stimulus — which is set to expire at the end of December — but Republicans have blocked the measure lockstep, which protected 87 million Americans. In addition, the amount of stimulus money that will be provided to everyday Americans is only half of what they received earlier this year: $600.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said, “This is no time to impose an expensive new mandate or unexpected new costs when they don’t have the money coming in to pay for the normal costs. So I’m afraid, as a result of this, many employers worried about this provision may have an incentive to lay off more of their employees.”
Thankfully, the new bill will still provide incentives to those who continue to provide paid leave in the form of refundable tax credits. But that might not be enough to help those without affordable insurance.