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What does the Affordable Care Act have to do with the continued government shutdown?

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Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag.
Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag.

A recent conversation via Facebook inspired me to address the continuing saga of the Affordable Care Act since it seems to be one of the main reasons the government shutdown continues. Regardless of the amount of blame-shifting among Republicans and Democrats, one thing remains certain in that the House parties are divided even among themselves. While most Republicans won’t entertain compromising unless the Affordable Care Act is in the discussion, Paul Ryan recently drew ire by proposing a plan with no mention of the measure. His view, dare I say it, is respectable as he states that, “I don’t know that within the next two weeks we have a viable strategy for actually repealing Obamacare, every piece of it.” Why? Probably because it’s already in effect. Why waste time repealing a law when the real issue seems to be the staggering national debt? Most people however, do seem to want to waste time governmentally because the issue isn’t so much national debt as it is reallocating resources. Who is provided for, who isn’t provided for and why or why not are the real issues to be dealt with.

Representative Harold Rogers (R-Ky) wants “negotiations that would provide appropriators with a realistic spending level to fund the government in a responsible — and attainable — way.” Yet what is responsibly attainable? Rep. Rogers doesn’t seem to take into account his own paycheck in the face of thousands of government employees forced to work without compensation while half of the House ignores their role in the problem. For all of Paul Ryan’s elitist measures, he at least has the merit to donate his paycheck to charity through the duration of the government shutdown.

I agree that certain facets of our government are problematic. But when it comes to citizens’ basic needs, I want a country and government that empowers its people to be the best they can be by allowing them, in one respect, affordable health care. Community is important – and in no way am I advocating cuts to subsistence programs – but the way a growing sentiment suggests that “this is not a country where only those with money get treated, there are programs and charities for those that can’t afford health care” is problematic. I don’t want a country that pities people through programs and charities. I want a country and government that regulates the over-privileged in order to allow a redistribution of wealth and therefore access to certain inalienable rights. If all we’re operating off of at the end of the day is a self-serving, fear-induced response then I am grievously worried about the future of this country.

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4 comments

  1. Laura…I agree with the basics of what you are saying. I have gone to 4 different universal healthcare seminars in the last 7 months. All of them had either nationally recognized experts such as T.R. Reid or representatives of large healthcare organizations to field questions and give excellent information to the public. Personally, I think healthcare should be a right, not a commodity.
    In one video at one of the seminars there was a female reporter (about 30, US citizen) who was just curious. She kept hearing that Canadians often come to the USA to get their health care. In some cases that may be true. So she asked 100 random Canadians (all from the same town and surrounding area) whether they would trade their healthcare system for the USA’s manner of coverage. 99 replied with a very quick NO! The one holdout grumbled a little but when push came to shove he said no as well. THEN she ask a very critical question to this discussion. She asked the same 100 Canadians and 100 Americans this question: Would you rather NOT have universal healthcare and pay less taxes as a result, but be responsible for providing your own healthcare costs? I am not slanting this by my confirmation bias…this is what each group said.
    The Canadians stated that healthcare was a right and a moral obligation for the community to provide all of it’s members without exception. ALL Canadians made this basic statement. Most (not quite all) of the Americans said they would rather pay less taxes and take care of their own healthcare costs because it was their money and they did not want to pay for anyone else.
    Besides the fact this is such a short sighted point of view it also basically says this: Canadians (and many other countries that have universal healthcare) say healthcare is a moral obligation, a right. The large majority of Americans say healthcare is a commodity that each individual should provide for him, her or themselves. Until we take the ‘for profit’ aspects out of healthcare (possibly even pay for physician’s education in exchange for a commitment of being a doctor for the certain period of time under the guidelines of the universal healthcare system in place) and treat it as a right for all the current battle will continue. Obamacare will be changed, improved, streamlined and made effective over the next few years no matter how problematic it is right now. It is the first step to making healthcare a moral right in this country rather than a commodity for those who can pay or use the emergency room as their only option. So much more to say about how much LESS expensive universal healthcare, effectively implemented and not restricted by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, religious ideology, etc. but I will save it for another time.

  2. Jim:

    Thanks for your response! The conversation I had that pre-empted this post had the infuriating, illogical, and ill-informed argument that all Canadians were not happy with their Universal Health Care system therefore we should not attempt anything similar. So I very much appreciate hearing about the survey of Canadians regarding their health care vs. our health care.

    The fact that “Americans said they would rather pay less taxes and take care of their own healthcare costs because it was their money and they did not want to pay for anyone else” does not surprise me. Americans are brought up in a very individualistic way and ignorant of their own privilege so it’s difficult getting some to recognize the favoritism that allots them more money than others. What blows my mind is the fact that 32 other countries have universal health care. I have a friend currently studying abroad in Scotland and she recently told me that she gets a lot of people who come up to her and say “Oy, America girl – what the fuck is wrong with your country? Did they really shut the government down to stop a healthcare bill from going into effect?”. Put like that, it does sound as ludicrous as some of us know the situation to be.

    I hope you write a post about “how much LESS expensive universal healthcare, effectively implemented and not restricted by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, religious ideology, etc.” It’s an important topic that can never be expounded upon too much.

  3. Well Laura…you asked for it….it is a bit disconnected as I am not a good writer but here are my thoughts per your request:
    Here I will present some information that I expect all of you to verify on your own. I trust my sources but I am no expert on any of this and I shall now, as they say, open my mouth (in print) and remove all doubt. By the way…I certainly welcome your informed input with sources I can investigate. I am here to learn.
    I have gone to 4 big meetings on universal health care. One was with T.R Reid who has traveled to a dozen first world countries specifically to investigate their health care systems and what is both good and bad about them. (Read The Healing of America by T.R. Reid) Another meeting with Reid focused on a county in Colorado that has taken it upon itself (via it’s medical professionals, it’s business professionals, and many others) to provide universal healthcare for ALL of the people that live in that county. So, it is rationally and realistically achievable here in the USA if you eliminate the greed and abuse. Here is the link to read about that. If this makes you curious or intrigued then do more research on your own. You owe it to yourself and you in fact owe it to your neighbors…and our country.
    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2010/august/19/grand-junction-health-care.aspx
    On to why I think the Affordable Care Act will be a good thing for our country now and especially in the long run.
    First point: Access to healthcare is made much easier promoting better general health and emphasizing preventative care which again is much less expensive than waiting until an issue is relieving the pressure on the emergency rooms that are now used by many as their primary care option at great expense. The current health care system is structured on an individual’s ability to pay and preexisting conditions may preclude insurance coverage. According to Physicians for a National Health Care Program, “The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $8,160 per capita,” supporting the misperception the United States has the best health care system. Healthcare IT News states a Commonwealth Fund report found out of seven industrialized countries, the United States ranks at the bottom in five areas of health care performance.

    Second point: Paperwork
    The current health care system is drowning in a sea of paperwork when every office visit for every patient means filling out more paperwork with repetitive and sometimes erroneous information. Subsequently, health care organizations and insurance companies are inundated with mounds of forms and records. A universal health care system automates and standardizes medical records, which can be accessed by all participating entities. Fully integrated electronic medical records contain complete and accurate patient information and rid health care organizations of walls of paper files. Good information leads to better decision-making by physicians, decreasing medical errors and the practice of defensive medicine to avoid malpractice suits.
    Also… Insurance companies and other middle men (pharmaceutical companies among others) are constrained to provide consistent and affordable services (under strict guidelines) where they are necessary, and eliminated from the process when they are not necessary. While we cannot negotiate for drug prices under the current ACA bill that will change because that is bs and we all know it. It is a big part of bringing costs under control.
    Next point: Rationing of care:
    Despite claims that universal care would cause rationing of care, which opponents claim does not occur in the present health-care system, universal care will open up care for more Americans. The current system rations care only to those who can afford to pay, which generally means those whose employers offer health benefits. I have a dear friend whose daughter needs a liver. She just got put on the list 2 days ago after a LONG wait and her health is getting worse. If she were much older maybe they would not have put her on the list and her fate would have been sealed. The ACA will be able to do a better job making sure more people get considered for organ transplants due to the efficiency of a national system. Death panels? These are an invention of those who would love to scare you out of thinking rationally and investigating in depth what ACA will in fact provide.

    An issue that might be more contentious on this site: Contraception which is provided for free in the ACA.
    Contraception for all takes a giant step towards reducing unwanted pregnancies and all of the attendant costs of probable single Motherhood…Single Mothers are forced to get a job (or two) to support her family…Mother also likely to go on welfare for an extended period…Mother is not likely to be able to go to college and improve position…child more likely to have problems at school, quit school early, often having problems with the law and the attendant costs of criminal activity. It should be provided as proscribed under the bill by EVERY business regardless of the owner’s religious affiliation or objection. It is civil law. It will pry not apply to churches proper for a long time….but church run hospitals and other business enterprises run by churches should not be given any exceptions. The law is the law and all businesses must follow it.
    Here is another article demonstrating some of the current day problems we face with our current medical system and some of the pitfalls that ACA will have to address to correct said problems. Our current system is rife with abuse.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/health/exploring-salines-secret-costs.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1
    OK….this is from a Facebook conversation a friend of mine had with a woman from Belgium…take it for what it is worth:
    “OK, I know I have a tendency to bang on about how great the healthcare system is here in Belgium, but I recently read how well-insured Americans are choosing to come here and pay out-of-pocket for procedures rather than go through with them in the States. Maybe when ACA fully kicks in, things will change, but it’s ridiculous that it’s cheaper to pay out-of-pocket here than risk your premiums going through the roof after your stateside surgery.
    “Hip replacement in Belgium: roughly $15,000
    “Hip replacement in the U.S.: roughly $90,000

    “Why are the costs so different? How can anyone look at that and think that the U.S. healthcare system, pre-ACA, was just fine?”
    Indeed…how can anyone look at our current system given all the other single payer systems out there and say ours is a contender for the common man?

  4. I really do not have stats on “how much less” the ACA will be. It depends on participation for one thing. Being able to negotiate drug prices for another and getting lobbiests out of the negotiating process in the next several years. I think 10 years from now (when I am pry dead!) it will be a very good and cost effective system.

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