American Studies Week 10 Blog: Healthcare
Find and analyse any website or web video opposing or criticising US healthcare reform (“Obamacare.”) What arguments are made? Can you empathise with them?
In an article entitled ‘9 Reasons Why Many Liberals Absolutely Hate Obamacare’, Michael Snyder provides a pretty damning assessment of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He notes that whilst the preceding U.S. healthcare system was undeniably ‘a complete and total mess’, Obamacare has been a ‘colossal fiasco’ that cannot adequately be described by words such as ‘disaster’ and ‘catastrophe’; even terms as strong as these fail to capture the enormity of the opportunity missed by the current U.S. administration. To support his damning verdict, Snyder puts forward nine main reasons why Americans in general and Liberals in particular hate Obamacare.
Several of these criticisms are levelled at the Obamacare website (https://www.healthcare.gov/ that was supposed to guide people into the system. Snyder claims that the website has been a ‘colossal technical failure’, which has led to those trying to gain access to care experiencing all sorts of problems. As just one example of the way it has proved ‘nearly impossible to sign up for health insurance policy,’ he highlights the case of Janice Baker who, as reported by USA Today, had to wait seven hours to enrol into Obamacare. He also notes that in several regions of the country the website offers the option of purchasing insurance from only one company, and goes on to repeat the claim made by the Washington Post that many people who believed that they had successfully enrolled had in fact not done so at all. Snyder also believes that many liberals are ‘absolutely mortified’ by the fact that it cost over 93 million dollars to construct a website that has, so far, only produced negative results.
Snyder is also critical of Obamacare for other reasons: these include the fact that (1) It has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket; (2) Employer-based insurance cover is being reduced; (3) Obama broke the promise he made publicly that people could keep their current insurance programs; and (4) The new system has caused many doctors to lose their jobs because of government cuts to Medicare.
Snyder also argues that people find Obamacare extremely complicated and suggests that this is not surprising given that the document creating it is over 11 million words long. He concludes by stating that while it seems as though Obamacare is here to stay, the manner of its implementation proves that ‘our politicians in Washington D.C do not seem to really care about us’.
Whilst these criticisms levelled at Obamacare appear to be justified, it seems as though they can also be countered quite easily. For example the arguments raised in relation to the website are flimsy, as it could be easily be said any new website us likely to experience problems in its early stages and that such problems are usually only temporary. After all, has there ever been a case where a massive government website has not experienced major problems leading to a media furore in the first year after its launch? With regards to the increases in premiums, there is evidence to suggest otherwise (such as the case of Julie Boonstra) and we have to remember that under Obamacare the government subsidizes part of the costs for those earning up to a maximum of 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. It could also be argued that attributing the blame for people having their insurance policies cancelled solely to Obamacare is unfair, given that it is the insurance companies that are responsible for carrying out the cancellations. Finally, it has to be said that Obamacare, despite its problems and the delays in its implementation, has to an extent achieved the aim of making healthcare available to many more people by preventing healthcare companies from discriminating against those who have pre-existing conditions etc.
However, it has to be admitted that Snyder’s arguments do highlight a certain lack of foresight by the Obama administration, since it clearly failed to realize the possible negative impacts that healthcare reform would have on many people. We have to understand that people will naturally be confused and worry if their insurance is suddenly cancelled and it has not helped that the Obamacare website has failed on multiple occasions. To a degree, then, the Obama administration should be held accountable on the grounds that it should have been more prepared to deal with problems regardless of whether they were expected or unexpected.
Despite its positives, it is of my opinion that Obamacare cannot be seen as a permanent solution to the problem of healthcare in the United States. For example, it is hard to argue against Michael Moore’s notion that the ‘individual mandate’ that is the basis of the Obamacare, is simply a ‘pro-insurance-industry plan’ that helps fill the coffers of the insurance companies. It has also failed to tackle what is perhaps the most crucial problem of healthcare in the United States, which is its astronomical cost. Unless spending in this area is reduced, people will continually be forced to pay high medical bills or go without medical treatment, which they would not need to do if they lived in any other country in the Western hemisphere.
To conclude, it is hard to sympathize with all of the claims that Snyder makes, but he does have some justification for some of what he says. From a personal perspective, I believe that healthcare should take its place under the umbrella of Locke’s inalienable rights to ‘Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness’. Therefore I agree with Michael Moore’s view that there is a need for a system along the lines of the ‘Medicare-for-all’ model, in which the government institutionalizes healthcare as a public service and makes it universal. Though many Americans will undoubtedly claim that such an system is socialist and will endanger their constitutional values, they seem to forget that they already have various state institutions in the form of fire fighters and the police, whilst they only have to look over Atlantic Ocean to witness that a public health service does not necessarily result in a socialist country with no ‘freedom’.