Today, June 28, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 vote. The nine justices were split among their usual partisan lines, with a surprising swing vote for the favor of the law coming from Chief Justice John Roberts. The Court stated that the individual mandate was not supported by the commerce clause of the constitution yet supported as a taxing power of Congress. Though this bill has passed, it represents only a small step towards complete health care reform in America; these parts of the law will take time to implement and will no doubt face opposition from the GOP and their voting body.
Those opposing Obamacare will need to come to accept it. There are a number of Americans out there who blatantly do not want the government intruding on their lives. To them, there is a certain stigma associated with socialism and big government -- the result of a red scare during their youths and early adulthood as baby boomers. Of course, they have reasonable fears of the government: Our government could feasibly morph into a dystopian regime, the likes of which resemble those depicted in novels and, unfortunately, those present in countless sovereign states on this Earth. That is their worst fear. Yet behind the rhetoric and picketing, a certain irony appears. These people eat food inspected for contamination by the USDA. They leave for work knowing their home won't be destroyed or collapse due to state and local building codes and fire regulations. They pick up their mail delivered to their mailbox by the US Postal Department. Many of them drop their kids off at state or federally-funded public schools where their children master the skills needed to succeed; their children are also free to borrow as many books as they wish to further cultivate these skills at their public library. They go to work for humane hours and wages, as set down by the Department of Labor. They sleep safe knowing that their local police department is protecting them and that criminals are securely imprisoned at federal detention complexes.
I ask myself whether it is truly the fear of government or our nature as Americans to be independent that makes such a large proportion of Americans oppose big government. Do opponents of Obamacare honestly believe that the government is going to control every single aspect of our lives, or is it because we would rather live as hunter-foragers free of any rule? I like to think the former of the two to be accurate.
In the case of "Obamacare," or more accurately, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many see it as the government intruding into their lives. Intrusion in one's life is accurate to a degree; first, however, let us examine main parts of the massive law. Note that not all aspects of the law are included below and those listed below will be in effect at different dates.
- More generic drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and there will be increased rebates on drugs (both lowering drug cost)
- An independent, non-profit group known as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute studies treatments and determine which is the best, economically and in terms of quality
- Fast food chains are required to disclose calorie counts in their menus
- Medicare is expanded to smaller clinics and hospitals
- Kids under 19 are not charged more due to pre-existing conditions, and can remain on parents' health insurance until they're 26
- Insurers cannot drop clients once they're sick, nor can they charge more for clients with pre-existing conditions or who are sick
- Coverage is not dropped due to patient's age (no more lifetime limits)
- Insurers must inform the client of everything they are charging (random fees must be thoroughly explained)
- Preventive care, not just "sick care," will be included in coverage plans
- Income-cutoff for Medicaid is lowered
- The "Medicare Gap," a gap in Medicare aid for coverage costs between around $2,700 and $6,100, closed with rebates
- Doctors are paid on their quality of care, not the number of patients they see
- New taxes on pharmaceutical companies, indoor tanning, insurance companies and a 0.9 percent increase of taxes on those earning $200,000 or more (all to account for the increase in healthcare spending)
The overall purpose of this law is to make health care affordable to all. This is not, or anything close to being, universal healthcare, and it was never meant to be. So where do the problems arise for many opposing big government and, subsequently, this law?
The first issue is the constitutionality of certain parts of the law, mainly the individual mandate or the government "forcing" you to purchase healthcare insurance. Second is the cost; it is estimated that this law will cost around $1.13 trillion in deficit spending for the next 10 years. So what about individual mandate? Is it unconstitutional? Let's look at the moral aspects of it. Healthcare is a human right -- we are given the freedom to live in this nation, thus the ability to live should not be determined by whether one can afford his or her treatment. One's health should not be in the hands of an industry that places profits over patients. We know there is a problem when we have countless citizens dying every day because they are uninsured.
This law is not socialism. It's nowhere near it. In fact, it actually helps insurers by bringing in more clients. In no way will the government control which doctors or hospitals you visit and your lifestyle. It is merely an expansion of what we already have -- a protection meant for the people. In the end, the government serves to protect its people. That's why we have government agencies inspecting your food, enforcing building regulations, keeping your wages and hours humane, providing your children with what they need to succeed, and protecting your neighborhoods. We as citizens must accept that there are aspects of our lives for which we need a government. Healthcare is one of them.