The US Supreme Court fanned the flames of America’s perpetual healthcare debate last week after announcing its decision to uphold the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Needless to say, international news networks were quick to respond with outlandish speculations regarding how the passing of the duly christened ‘Obamacare’ Act could negatively affect those living in America; indeed, in the 24 hours that followed the Supreme Court’s decision, presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a jaw-dropping boost of over $4.6m in donations to his campaign fund, courtesy of ‘concerned’ Republicans. As a result, it would be outlandish in order to assume that such large-scale, negative response to the Act merits no consideration whatsoever – so why are Republicans so upset?
According to ‘Conservapedia’, (which is an honest-to-God website), Obamacare “will impose massive penalties on young workers, small businesses and others who choose not to buy expensive health insurance” and “requires private citizens to purchase health insurance, involuntarily fund abortions, and pay for sex offenders to use Viagra under the threat of legal sanctions”.
On one hand, this self-described ‘clean and concise resource’ – which unsurprisingly features a somewhat slanted view of world history – is indeed correct in its assumption that some of those who choose not to purchase healthcare will be penalised. In fact, it was the legality of this aspect of Obamacare specifically in which the Supreme Court had been summoned to rule on. That being said, this penalty simply cannot accurately be referred to as ‘massive’, because the exact figures have yet to be decided. Furthermore, the fee will only be applicable to those who can already afford health insurance, yet for whatever reason prefer not to obtain it. Why?
Unfortunately, this fee is more or less a tradeoff that must be paid in order for insurance companies to allow every American to be charged the same amount of money for health coverage – regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This clause is phenomenally beneficial for those who often grow ill, and substantially less so for those who are young and fit; however, regardless of one’s standing in society, the Act enables all Americans the power to obtain inexpensive health insurance.
Some critics argue that ‘not everyone wants’ health insurance, and that, by supporting this Act, Barack Obama has effectively transformed into a totalitarian dictator. However, the heavy privatization of the American health industry has for too long ensured that all those unable to pay for medical treatment simply shall not receive it. For example, take the case of last week’s 65-year-old woman in New Jersey who was carrying a 23kg (51 lb) cancerous tumour that previously could not be removed due to her lack of health insurance.
Because the woman was unable to work – and, therefore, financially unable to afford health insurance that would cover her life-threatening ‘pre-existing medical condition’ – she was forced to wait for the tumour’s surgical removal until she reached an age making her eligible for Medicare-sponsored health insurance. This woman, who chose to remain more or less unidentified, could have died (and probably still will die) an extremely painful death because she could not afford health insurance; however, for whatever reason, her God-fearing Christian neighbours at ‘Conservapedia’ would have gladly let her die in order to avoid a tax increase.
In truth, the expected tax increase that will pay for Obamacare will not affect everyone. According to the Act, all US taxpayers earning over $200,000 per year will see a rise in their annual taxes of 0.9%. In return for their ‘sacrifice’, this bracket of unarguably well-off Americans will have given the entire nation the gift of astronomically low and unbiased insurance premiums, federally-subsidized insurance for those living in poverty, the establishment of health insurance exchanges and heavily enforceable standards with which insurance companies must operate.
In truth, critics are correct in their assumption that this Act will not benefit some as much as others – but it just so happens that there are a hell of a lot more ‘others’ than many would care to admit. According to the US Census Bureau, over 46.2 million Americans (15.1% of the population) are suffering in poverty. Unfortunately, it appears that there has been an ever-increasing spell of ignorance spreading throughout the United States which goes hand-in-hand with the assumption that the entire nation must be nothing but gated-communities and happy, employed citizens; however, this false and misguided perception could not be much further from the truth. The United States is the 4th most developed nation in the entire world – yet with regards to healthcare, the US lags behind with a ranking of 37th. Indeed, such a blatant international embarrassment should provoke any American towards reaching the epiphany that a large-scale, regulatory social endeavour – regardless of how ‘evil’ it may be perceived – was (and is) required in order to bridge the nation’s ever-increasing poverty gap.
‘Conservapedia’ is correct in its assumption that Obamacare will help to indirectly fund contraception – and, under severe circumstances, perhaps even abortion – which are ideals that do not fall in line with the religious beliefs of many conservatives in America. However, these critics are suffering under the awkwardly placed delusion that taxpayers should only pay for the activities in which they themselves place faith. If this presumption mirrored reality in any shape or form, the US Treasury would suffer complete collapse after reimbursing taxpayers for numerous endeavours – including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending weapons to numerous nations which take part in mass-orchestrated terror and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars refurbishing basketball courts at Guantanamo Bay.
Via taxes, the American people pay for things they don’t believe in every single day – and, if they don’t believe in said expenses, they should be thrilled to know that they live in a representative democracy in which they can duly elect a legislative body whose beliefs in expenditures they do share. In the meantime, however, critics of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms should take a few steps back until they are able to see some sort of bigger picture. Indeed, Government-subsidised health insurance for those who cannot afford it in one of the world’s most developed nations should not be a button-issue – it should be a no-brainer.