Right-wing conspiracy? Socialist plot? The origins of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Jill Quadagno
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2014, 39 (1): 35-56
On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Did the ACA signify a government takeover of the health care system, a first step on the road to socialism, as conservative critics charged? Or was it, rather, a sellout to the right wing, as liberal single-payer advocates proclaimed? The ACA's key provisions, the employer mandate and the individual mandate, were Republican policy ideas, and its fundamental principles were nearly identical to the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993 (HEART), a bill promoted by Republican senators to deflect support for President Bill Clinton's Health Security plan. Yet the ACA was also a policy legacy of the Clinton administration in important ways that rarely are acknowledged, notably Medicaid expansion and insurance company regulation. Although the ACA departed from the liberal vision of a single-payer plan and adhered closely to the objectives of those who believed that the health care system should encourage the free market, it included provisions that will make coverage more affordable, reliable, and accessible.

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