It was March 23, 2010, and America was drunk on the euphoria of change. On this day, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Not since 1965, with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid has the healthcare system in the United States seen such dramatic change.
For the first time in the history of America, health insurance became a mandate. Coverage with health insurance became available to everyone, at least in theory. The federal government will require employers with a certain number of employees to provide this coverage. It has also tasked each state with numerous requirements, including the creation of a state insurance exchange and an expansion of Medicaid.
Medicaid is a joint undertaking between the federal and state governments to provide health insurance to the poor. One aspect of the new law is to request that states provide this coverage to any state residents with incomes at or near the poverty line. Approximately 50 percent of individuals acquiring health insurance with the new law will do so under this program. It happens to be one of the most discussed concerns on a state level, as Medicaid expenditures rank as the number one cost on many state budgets. Connecticut is no exception to this, as the Department of Human Services in 2011 consumed 26.7 percent of the state budget, or approximately $5.2 billion. About $3.84 billion, or nearly 20 cents of every tax dollar collected went to funding for Medicaid and other social assistance programs.
Now, when considering the increased enrollment as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the costs escalate. One published study puts the cost for all states at $8 billion over a ten year period. This is reflective of a requirement that states cover 7 percent of the initial cost starting in 2014, to increase to 10 percent in 2020. The overall total cost of this expansion to all taxpayers nationally is estimated to be $1 trillion over ten years.
Looking specifically at Connecticut, numerous financial issues abound. The budget deficit for this year is already at $363 million. This is expected to increase to $1.1 billion by the following year. The expense for the Department of Human Services is projected to grow to $6.2 billion over the next three years as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is implemented. While many feel good about the humanitarian element making certain everyone has health insurance, certain facts are inescapable.
The bottom line is that significant dollars are necessary to cover these spending plans, and they will have to come from somewhere. For those who already have existing health insurance, or feel they already have an overwhelming state tax burden, this becomes all the more disconcerting. Hopefully, our elected leaders will come to some agreement on a solution that does not penalize the hard working residents of Connecticut who have already been footing this bill. With the track record of our current governor and legislators however, we'll have to wait and see.