Obamacare: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


In 2003 a bill was drafted guaranteeing all American residents vision care, dental services, primary and emergency care as well as an extensive drug plan. This draft had majority support and clauses ensuring that privatized institutions (operating out of their own buildings) would be able to continue their business. Heck, it even included safeguards for any economic and coverage loopholes. Finally, the United States would be a social leader with a universal health care plan. Our new system would rival the most prestigious in Europe and outshine even our lauded, Canadian allies.

This single-payer bill, HR 676, colloquially referred to as the Medicare for All Act, fell on the deaf ears of congress. It wasn’t put to a vote, it wasn’t even debated.

What happened?

The general understanding is that filibuster-proof support could not be established for the draft without substantial changes. With only a slight majority there was always the chance that the bill would be struck down by a long-winded republican speech. However, this was likely just an excuse to cater to insurance companies and pharmaceutical lobbyists since the original proposal was largely supported by both democrat and republican alike until modified to include mandated insurance purchase. This new bill, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was put to vote immediately. It was, in fact, the final draft of the Affordable Care Act that was filibustered by republican Ted Cruz because of this mandate. His defiance was an act of bluster and puffery though as other senators had already voted to pass the bill with a runaway majority. He eventually joined his peers and the disappointing farce of universal healthcare we know as “Obamacare” was born.

The main differences between the proposals in HR 676 and those passed in the ACA are the freedom of insurance and pharmaceutical companies to continue to extort American citizens for billions of dollars each year. While the Medicare for All Act would have eliminated health insurance companies altogether (the government would have been the sole financier of healthcare), the Affordable Care Act actually forces every family near or above the poverty line to purchase insurance for themselves or face a penalty fine. Medicare for All would also have eliminated fees like copays for medications, likely resulting in pharmaceutical companies having to dial back prices. The new “Obamacare” system allows those same companies to continue to exploit Americans who are sick and dying, in other words, business as usual.

Obviously, universal health care, to most people, means that every resident of that country has physician care available to them at all times. The ACA does not actually provide that. Not even close. More than 20 states have yet to adopt the measure and as long as the mandate exists and the exploitative practices continue, so will the rejection of Medicare expansion by various republican governors. Again, this would have been a non-issue by passing HR 676 which was a single-payer system. In single-payer systems like Canada, Australia and the UK, the federal government is the sole healthcare funding entity and so whether a region adopts a program is irrelevant as each resident would be covered regardless of their state law.

Even the monetary savings aren’t comparable. The projected savings that the Medicare for All Act would have provided were estimated by both Harvard and the Physicians for a National Health Program organization as over 300 billion dollars. The savings would have come from preventative care (fighting stage one cancer is hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than fighting stage 3) and by eliminating insurance overhead costs. The Affordable Care Act saves barely half of the amount that was projected by HR 676 in the states that have chosen to implement it. These savings largely come from previously uninsured citizens who are now obliged to ante up insurance fees.

The president of the United States of America – the leader of the free world – has an obligation to, whenever possible, make objectively good decisions for the whole of the country. In terms of health care this has not been the case for a worryingly long time. We rank dead last among developed countries for quality of care and yet we spend roughly double every other nation in that same category. When the current administration was presented with a solution, it hesitated and made concessions when it shouldn’t have. The current health care system is better than the free for all of five years ago but it is still an unacceptable format for a country that considers itself a humanitarian and social world leader. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies have held too much influence over American administrations for too long. I am running as an independent because I refuse to choose money over integrity. A vote for Art Drew is a vote for a healthier America that cares about all of her citizens, not just the rich ones.