Whitman and the A.C.A.

As President Trump and the Republican congressional majority attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Whitman community braces with uncertainty.

Kate Grumbles, News Writer

Republican threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have cast uncertainty on the future of American healthcare system. Despite this, the effects of a repeal would, at least initially, only reach most Whitman students in minimal ways.On Jan. 12, Senate Republicans voted to approve a budget plan which starts the process of taking apart Obamacare. But there are many steps that have to occur before any kind of change reaches people covered by the ACA. 20 million more Americans are now covered by the ACA that didn’t have health insurance before its creation, and many of these people could stand to lose their coverage in upcoming years.

Susanne Beechey, Associate Professor of Politics at Whitman, spoke about the difficulty of predicting how the repeal process of ACA will go.

“Part of what’s really tricky is that the ACA is not the kind of legislation that you can engage with in an a la carte way. It’s a delicate political balance,” Beechey said. “We know that some pieces are quite popular, so it’s just not clear what repeal means.”

Garrett Atkinson, President of the Republican club on campus, spoke about the possibilities opening up for healthcare with the repeal of the ACA.

“If you backtrack to before the ACA was passed, the problem was largely that insurance was simply too expensive for many Americans to afford,” Atkinson wrote in an email to The Whitman Wire. “So, if the Republicans come up with a plan that truly addresses the main issue, an almost complete lack of competition, insurance could become affordable in a way that doesn’t require the collusion of big business and government.”

Unfortunately, this clean slate for the Republican party to implement a new health care plan into may be hard to find. Beechey spoke about how difficult it would be to to repeal all of the ACA, and remove its effect on health care legislation and regulation.

“When you move policy in a particular direction, there’s never a full going back. You’re always kind of leaving some of the changes in the wake,” Beechey said. “Policy change happens in an incremental way on the margins. It’s really not the case in the United States that we just wipe out entire programs and then build new ones up.”

The future of American healthcare is shifting, but there won’t be a major change in Whitman campus health facilities anytime soon. Claudia Ness, Director of the Whitman Health Center, spoke about the students who are currently covered by the ACA.

“Depending on what’s repealed and how quickly … the small number of students that carry [the ACA] now could potentially be put in a bind or awkward space trying to find some other form of coverage,” Ness said. “I would think that the students and families would have time to make another plan for their health insurance.”

Another reason Whitman students won’t see a difference in the services offered by the Health Center is because these are covered by tuition, not healthcare plans.

“I really do not believe that [the repeal] will have a huge impact on our particular practice here at the Health Center. Most of what we do and the care we provide, we do not bill insurance … so it really does not affect the care here at the health center,” said Ness. “All the care here at the Health Center is either free of charge or minimal charge for students, which is why we don’t go through all of the steps required to bill insurance.”

Congressional Republicans have put forth no specific or comprehensive proposal for a policy to replace the ACA For Whitman students currently on the ACA, on-campus health services should remain as they are. Off-campus, the future remains hazy.