The USA never ceases to amaze me. At this moment, a political battle is playing
out in the Supreme Court that essentially pits the political right against
Obama's health care plan. The biggest irony is that the 'socialized medicine'
against which the right is fighting so hard is based on a conservative plan,
proposed in the 1990s by a conservative think tank, and subsequently adopted by
at least one conservative governor (Mitt Romney) in his state.
history will prove me wrong, but I think this will turn out to be one of the
biggest miscalculations of the political right. Inasmuch as "Obamacare" is not
perfect, it is a vast improvement over what existed before. It gives more
Americans access to affordable health care. Those who have not had the
experience of being locked out of every possible insurance plan because they
suffer from chronic disease or terminal disease may not realize just how
revolutionary this is. The pre-"Obamacare" trend is not sustainable, especially
since America has some of the worst health indicators in the industrial world,
and these are getting progressively worse. As Americans become sicker,
affordable health care is going to become increasingly necessary.
'true American values' continue to move towards the right, as they have been
doing for the past 50 or so years, then Americans will wake up in a dystopian
society some decades from today. Basic health care (including vaccination,
prenatal and antenatal care) will be out of reach for the average person.
Perhaps only 10% of the population will have access to fresh fruit, vegetables,
meat and dairy products. The rest will have to make do on heavily-sugared and
salted food products. It sounds very much like the USA is trending towards
"third world" status. Those of us from the "third world" who have seen what zero
access to affordable health care for the majority of the population means in
practical terms know that there's nothing ideal about it. The strangest thing of
all is that the American public will have voluntarily taken itself in that
direction because of its ideological investments.
I think the political
right would have done better to embrace "Obamacare" as their original idea.
After all, it did grow out of a conservative vision for expanded health care
coverage. By contrast, a vision originated by the political left would have
pushed private insurance companies out of the market and replaced them with a
single insurer: the government. Seen from this perspective, many on the left
could (and do) argue that "Obamacare" is too huge a compromise by the Obama
administration to the right.
If the right had taken credit for
"Obamacare" they would have had a more coherent platform to run on. They would
have been able to paint "Romneycare," not as a blemish on Romney's record, but
as a superior plan to "Obamacare." I have to wonder what lies ahead for American
politics and American health care.
The best-thought out piece I have
read on the American health care system lately comes from Fareed Zakaria: "Health insurance is for everyone". It is valuable for its
comparative assessment of health care and insurance in different national
contexts. David Paul's piece on the Supreme Court and the insurance mandate is also a good
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