As 2017 enters its waning months leading into the holidays, the House and Senate floors of Congress are still in high tension over the issue of healthcare. What started with the President’s campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) characterized the first year of the new administration with heated debate, public outcry, and celebrity appeals to ethics. Talk of repeal of the ACA lead much of public discourse in the first few months of 2017, and in May the American Health Care Act, a widely decried replacement was offered to the floor of Congress. The bill was heavily criticized for pushing people in need off of their insurance plan and for giving little mind to women’s health issues. The bill just narrowly failed to pass, as it little support from either side of the isle. Left-wing congressmen fought the bill vehemently and some right-wing policy makers voted against the bill on the grounds that it was hastily put together, and not properly reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office. After the failure to pass, House Speaker Paul Ryan told the base that the debate was not over. The debate cooled down over the summer, but has regained the national spotlight as the President recently signed an executive order ending the subsidies for low-income insurance plans. This move is part of larger agenda to slowly erode the foundations of the ACA. Insurers will probably pull out of the program with those subsidies gone, which will hurt the healthcare system as a whole over time. The Modus Operandi of the GOP since the the bill passed during the Obama administration has been to sabotage the ACA to a point of uselessness until the public is dissatisfied enough to support repeal. So far, they have been unsuccessful, but that remains to be tested following the recent executive action. Our country’s unyielding faith in the ability of the private sector to handle health care costs seems almost self-destructive at this point. This strange and unique problem in the United States is all the more puzzling when the state of health care in other developed countries is observed.
Almost every country in Europe has full healthcare coverage, while the U.S struggles to cover even 80% of its people. The figures become more grim when the actual quality of coverage in the US is understood. Even countries in Europe with higher economic freedom show full coverage rates. Almost every single one of these countries has some form of socialised healthcare or single payer. In contrast, the United States continues to accommodate the insurance industry and employer-based health care. Many apologists of the American system claim that universal healthcare drives premiums up and costs the government more than it can manage. The problem here is that we know the US situation was and is not working, because while other countries enjoy better coverage, they also pay significantly less on health insurance as a percentage of their GDP than we do. The argument that it is not economically feasible is troubling as it ignores this widely understood truth.
Even so, a comprehensive health care system will be payed for with tax dollars. For a country in so much debt and economic instability, why should we invest in such a program? It has become an issue of priority. We spend incredible amounts of money on our military infrastructure and corporate subsidies. How can it be believed that healthcare costs too much? The money is already being spent! Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, military hero and supreme allied commander of the allied forces in world war 2 once said in his “chance for peace” speech, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” The economic argument is potent, but I’d like to entertain a spiritual one. I talk very frequently about moral obligation, and it is no less important here. There are human beings who live in the most advanced country on the planet that do not have access to health care. That is a crime. More so, it is a crime we are complicit in. When Christ appeared to Peter for the last time, he told him to “feed my lambs.” In his parting words to Peter, that is the message he chose to leave him with. To take care of each other.
Sources: TIME.com, World Bank