Obamacare VI: The Final Diagnosis

May 25, 2014
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Henry Vespa concludes his Brit’s eye view of Obamacare by summing up everything he has learned so far…

Well, that’s probably quite enough Obamacare for the time being. This foray may have been partisan and partial but as a random Brit, I followed what randomly interested me; namely, the what and the why, the nomenclature, the reasons for the fervent opposition, and whether the whole thing is actually worth the trouble.

Obamacare VI: The Final Diagnosis

On the whole, and whatever the ultimate outcome, Obamacare seems to me to be coming from the best of motivations: the extension of good health care to a greater proportion of the United States population. Who can argue with that? Well, apparently, the Republican Party can. But… what about the widely reported story that the PPACA is essentially a re-tread of a Republican proposal from a Massachusetts think tank, endorsed by Mitt Romney?

Well, a closer look reveals that although both the Heritage think tank plan and Obamacare involve mandatory insurance cover, the differences far outweigh this one similarity. The Republican proposal is very much focused on bailing out the insurance industry and selling policies that may well not be fit for purpose (i.e. providing necessary medical treatment) whereas the Democrats’ legislation and system – however inept at times – seeks to broaden access to genuine health care.

Perhaps not so surprising then, that the Reds have opposed the Blues so strenuously and consistently. (Question: am I allowed to call the two parties by their colours? “Reds” seems almost McCarthy-ist in its evocation… ah well, whatever.)

So, how does it compare to arrangements in other countries? I said at the beginning that my own views on health care are inevitably colored by the UK’s National Heath Service. Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the NHS, is credited with saying, “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community.” Certainly pretty socialist thinking by comparison to the US system, even under the much-derided ‘liberal’ Obamacare.

Obamacare VI: The Final Diagnosis

But with the NHS in a financial crisis (limited funds, aging population, increase in costs of caring for those with long-term illnesses) and with the current Tory government outsourcing increasing numbers of services (including surgeries and cancer care) to the lowest private bidder, a future in which the UK’s health care is in private hands doesn’t seem too unlikely a scenario; no matter what Nye Bevan said.

So, if I refrain from throwing stones (being as the UK is sitting in a glass house), the bottom line summary to date would seem to be that Obamacare has made things better. More people have access to healthcare. Of course, it hasn’t made things better to the hoped for degree and, according to most commentators, it’s a pretty poor way of extending health care to the populace when compared to other “Western democracies”, such as the UK, France and Canada.

It’s even arguable – what with bad publicity and website catastrophes – that much of the shortfall in improvement is down to poor management. But things are better than they were. Which is something. After all, a step forward is a step forward. The main concern should now be how to stop it being followed by two steps back…

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