“It is wrong for a country as rich as America to have tens of millions of people without health insurance… (ACA) represents the last chance, perhaps for decades, of erasing one of the least creditable differences between America and the rest of the industrialized world.” -excerpt from a piece featured on The Economist.
ROHNERT PARK, CA — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently announced a plan to extend universal healthcare to all Iranian citizens. This sparked a flurry of media coverage about the irony that one of the American government’s greatest ‘enemies,’ with a supposed backwards culture, is seemingly progressing ahead of the U.S. in its approach to healthcare.
The latest Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report on employment numbers, which included projections new healthcare policies will have on the job market, has had a similar effect. Pundits, whether liberal or conservative, were flocking to the surface findings of this report. Jumping on the opportunity to push their agenda, and either trash the Affordable Care Act which has been dubbed ObamaCare, or to point out how it did not go far enough.
There is an immense amount of confusion and uncertainty around ‘Obamacare’ and its stuttering online roll out has not helped that cause. As the tittle suggests, the bill is aimed at solving some of the main problems that Americans with health issues are facing, such as finding inadequate, or lacking access to, healthcare.
The Affordable Care Act has provided a government funded option that does not exclude applicants. Providing a market of insurance coverage for those applicants who would be unappealing to health insurers, therefore presented with high premiums. Pre-existing conditions ring a bell?
There have been many success stories just in the brief existence of the new ‘Obamacare’ system, some of which the President did not hesitate to highlight in his State of the Union address. Stories of single parents or cancer patients, finding themselves now able to enroll in affordable healthcare plans.
Interestingly, The Economist concluded that the bill, “Raises wages, lets people work less, and reduces unemployment.” All sounds pretty good! However, there have been a never-ending stream of failures, beyond just the shortcomings of the website itself. They range from the absurd to the downright insignificant. However, one stream of criticism does have roots in something very real, and very significant.
Where the U.S. System stands
In a Bloomberg report, it was found that the U.S. enjoys the most expensive healthcare system in the world, costing more than 17% of GDP per capita, and ranked 46th in an efficiency index.
Most of the nations that performed better have a single payer, universal healthcare system. Some have a mixed public-private sector approach, yet the main difference in all seems to be the prioritization of healthcare as a human right, not an industry to be profited from.
Republicans and conservative pundits, even in the face of data like this, love to claim that the ‘pre-obamacare’ medical system was the best in the world. It was this blindness, or financial marriage to the corrupt corporatism itself which fueled high prices and cost inflation. Creating a system that harmed all but the very wealthiest. That helped pave the political ground for the very system we are implementing now.
Yet, as the title of the bill also reveals, it is not universal healthcare. After a long negotiation battle by the Obama Administration and congressional democrats, a bill that still fits within the basic corporate system of private health coverage was passed.
The missing link many progressives, and experts in healthcare economics, point to is the “for profit,” or predatory capitalistic model that prevails in the American system, and is mostly absent in some of the most effective systems around the world.
These experts claim that Obamacare is not the answer it was labelled or was originally intended to be.
Universal healthcare systems, that are primarily not for profit, do exist. What is true is that there is hard data that proves that not only do systems like these improve on the humanitarian cost that exist in modern healthcare itself, but they work at a much more efficient and cost effective level for the majority.
Certainly, profit margins will decline for the entrenched powers, and social changes will be drastic. Yet, in this quandary, a fundamental question is posed that our global society is going to have to ask itself more and more: Are there certain areas of life that should not be for profit?