Monday, April 2, 2012

Hands off my health care!

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act ensures that government does just that—lay its hands off your medical care. Here’s how:

The Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) helps doctors avoid having insurance companies dictate how they should treat their patients (via high overhead costs, billing limitations, and bureaucracy) ; it helps the insurance companies by adding millions to their payroll; it helps the economy by reducing the deficit; and it helps the average taxpayer by reducing their taxes.

But most importantly, the law is designed to help patients. Healthcare is supposed to be about the sick. It’s not about the doctors, the nurses, the insurance companies, the interest groups, or the politicians. It is ultimately about providing the necessary medical assistance to those who need it and are suffering.

The problem, however, is that the United States is the only industrial nation in the world that does not provide equal access to healthcare to its citizens. Despite this, the American people still pay more for their limited healthcare than their counterparts in other countries.

The Affordable Care Act, therefore, provides a fix to this problem by cutting costs and expanding coverage. But these goals are harder to achieve without an individual mandate, the issue now facing our Supreme Court.

Everyone needs healthcare. But without an individual mandate, costs will increase for all of us when those who decided to “free-ride”, and not buy health insurance, face an unexpected illness which forces them to get more expensive care from the hospital ERs. When this occurs, and these people can’t afford that care, their treatment costs are absorbed by hospitals. The hospitals, in turn, raise the cost of their services on the insured. Furthermore, insurance companies raise their premiums on policyholders.

Prior to Obamacare, this has been the situation, and has cost the average taxpayer an additional $1000 per year in taxes. Thus, those of us who have played by the rules have been forced to give free emergency care to those uninsured. This, in essence, has been the true “individual mandate.”

In the 1990s, Republicans proposed the individual mandate as a counter-part to President Bill Clinton’s universal health-care bill. It was their idea in the first place. But now that Obama has put his stamp on it, they must oppose it. But if the individual mandate is overturned by the Supreme Court, it will only increase the need for a single-payer system.

Under Obama’s law, healthcare is NOT a government-run program. There is no single-payer system, and private-insurance companies still run the market. What Obamacare did was stay true to the capitalistic principals of the free market and break-up the monopolies that health insurance companies held. Specifically, he made sure that these companies would not deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, gave people the flexibility of changing their insurance companies, and provided the uninsured with affordable care.

If opponents of Obamacare successfully repeal the law, the nation’s uninsured would rise again. And with an individual mandate that is now “unconstitutional”, we must follow the lead of nations such as Great Britain, France, Germany, and Canada that provide universal healthcare for their citizens.

So we can either start trying to fix the many other problems our nation is facing, or we can continue to debate about whether or not a cancer patient should receive affordable healthcare. Either way, the government will need to play a role in how our healthcare system works. The question, then, is how large of a role they play.

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