By Brendan LeRoy
“Every last word of Obamacare must be repealed!” say Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. Come to think of it, I cannot remember a single Republican who has come out in support of any part of the Affordable Care Act. Guess what? They are all right, every last word of the 2,800 page law should go up in a cloud of smoke.
Until recently, I have considered the Affordable Care Act to be a guinea pig law. After all, the law has had success in Massachusetts and is the first private-sector-based alternative to universal health care in the West. I believed that in time the law would be modified appropriately to eradicate the errors created during the infamous Democratic back-door deals. Notice my use of the past tense, I cannot see any chance that the law will be amended or repealed any time soon. The benefits of the law are outweighed by the major problems the law has produced.
The Affordable Care Act has had successes which are undeniable. The law reduced the uninsured rates from 18.1 percent to 11.7 percent, many of whom were the young allowed to remain on their parents’ insurance. Democrats have used this statistic to defend the law along with the popular provisions: coverage on parents’ insurance until 26, insurance cannot deny applicants for pre-existing conditions, requiring coverage of mental health and preventing insurance from charging more on the basis of gender. However, these are only provisions directly regulating insurance companies. The provisions requiring state contribution into the Affordable Care Act have been a disaster.
The requirement that the States expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level has been ruled unconstitutional. The exchanges intended to help the uninsured find low cost insurance plans have been set up in only 36 states. The employer mandate requiring companies with more than 50 employees provide coverage to full-time workers has led to companies cutting hours to part-time status, reducing pay and at the same time forcing them to pay for insurance out-of-pocket. In March, arguments questioning the constitutionality of the provision that provides subsidy assistance to families falling under 400 percent of the federal poverty level were heard by Supreme Court in King vs. Burwell.
Obamacare has done more harm than good. That being said, when I say we should do away with the law that’s when Republicans and I part ways. The issue associated with this law stems from attempting to hyper-regulate the private sector rather than instituting the system which brings fear and terror to Americans: socialized medicine.
Something I imagined would bring about much debate is the involvement of the for-profit health care companies in instituting the law. The 2,800 page law enacted the framework for the law, but health care companies defined the rules by which they themselves would be governed. The very law which required every American to purchase their services.
There is nothing that compares; the government deems health care essential so a law is passed to require each American purchase the service from the private market. The government requires employers to provide health care or individuals to purchase it and the private sector insures the people so that they can receive treatment from private hospitals. All the government has done is heavily regulate and incentivize the industry by what 60 Minutes called an ‘orgy of lobbying.’
I remember when I was young I found out that hospitals were not public entities and I was shocked. It did not make any sense; my school was run by the town, so were the police and fire stations, the roads we drove on and the plows that cleared them, the water and sewer lines that came to my house, but not the hospital? What is more necessary than a hospital? The notion that my doctor was not employed by the government the same way my teachers were, or that health care was run privately seemed ridiculous. This week, my ten-year-old brother said the exact same thing: “so someone owns a hospital like someone owns McDonald’s?”
The argument that privatization is the solution to everything is preposterous. The question is: how much should the ability to pay impact access to the most essential services? Should we allow parents to take their tax money so their child can have a better education while allowing the public school collapse for those who cannot afford the charter school? Should we privatize transportation where cost ineffective bus stops are cut from the line? Should we privatize roads and let the rural routes and streets in the poor neighborhoods decompose? How about if each call to the police station or fire department bankrupted the poor?
Of course, parents can send their children to private schools only after paying taxes in order to benefit the educational facilities of their communities. Commuters can drive their cars to work, only after paying to maintain public transportation. Yet there is no such option for health care. The wealthy do not have to contribute significantly more than any other member of their communities while the burden falls disproportionately on the poor and middle-class. There is a reason why every nation in the Western world has enacted some form of universal health care, because it is morally irresponsible to consider that income has any effect on whether a person receives adequate medical attention. Law enforcement protects a community from crime, schools prepare children for entry into society but the service that is meant to protect and save people’s very lives is a controversy. Only in America.
Brendan LeRoy is a junior majoring in linguistics.