A proposed budget by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate, presumes the repeal of Obamacare, which is formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. He’s not alone. Many of Ryan’s Republican colleagues in Congress are holding out hope that the act will somehow disappear before its full force kicks in in 2014.
We get the feeling that somewhere along the line hatred of Obamacare became a box Republican politicians had to check. In the process, the intent of the law seems to have been lost.
Allow us to offer a reminder.
Let’s start with some basics. Before the passage of Obamacare, the United States stood alone among industrialized democracies as the only one without universal health care. The other nations all consider health care a basic human right.
As a result, approximately 48 million Americans lack health insurance, according to the most-recent U.S. Census. For these citizens, a medical crisis has the possibility of turning into a devastating financial crisis. Of course, even beyond the costs of treating a serious malady, the nation’s uninsured are at a disadvantage in what’s called “wellness care.” Regular checkups or even treatments for minor conditions are often ignored if they strain the family budget. For many of these uninsured, they wait until a minor condition has turned major, and then seek help in an emergency room, where the costs rise exponentially.
Payment for these costs isn’t merely left to those without health insurance. Inevitably, the government, health-care providers, insurance companies and their customers — or, in other words, all of us — pick up the tab. The more Americans with health insurance, the more the costs and the care can be spread across the entire country. And those benefits not only apply to the uninsured; under vigilant government regulation, those with coverage should see costs stabilize.
Barack Obama wasn’t the first president to deal with the consequences of a race-to-the-bottom health-care system that makes the United States the outlier among modern nations. As the world’s other leading economies transitioned to universal coverage after World War II, Harry Truman sought the same for the United States. He failed, as did so many of his successors in the White House.
Obamacare has its flaws. For one, it will almost certainly fail to reach universal coverage. It also keeps too much power in the hands of the health insurance industry. However, it will provide coverage for Americans who lack it and it lays down rules that prevent the worst abuses of insurers. Obama, playing the role of pragmatic, signed the best possible version Congress could agree on.
At this point, opposition to the Affordable Care Act appears futile. Our future is set, thanks to voters in the 2012 presidential election and five members of the Supreme Court. Those who have a better idea about how to provide affordable health insurance to 48 million Americans had their chance to provide alternatives. Taking Obamacare away isn’t in the cards.