Sometimes the ramifications of the current political climate can be seen at the same moment when impactful legislation is being discussed. Case in point: healthcare.
Allow me to get personal for a moment. My father is currently in the hospital after suffering a stroke. That stroke came after a quintuple bypass. The bypass came after a nasal surgery, the installation of an electro-stimulator on his spine, years of treatment for diabetes and neuropathy... you get the idea.
And of course with all of this taking place in American hospitals – which do provide really great care – it has all cost a fortune.
My family is not the only American family suffering this. The price of hospital care has reached a point where middle and lower class families are forced to financially set themselves back for decades. It’s the equivalent of being forced to buy five new American cars or a new house when everyone knows you can’t afford one extra car or most home repairs.
After being in the hospital with my dad for the past two weeks, there have been several moments where I look out the window and find myself wishing this hospital was in Canada. Or Finland. Or Sweden. Or any of the other countries that actually take care of its citizens instead of trying to build an empire of debt.
Which brings us to the latest attempt to offer affordable healthcare to America. What they don’t tell you is that as long as the system stays mostly the same, healthcare in America is only affordable if you’re rich.
The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was not quite a success, but it wasn’t a complete flub. At least not on its own.
As usual party politics got involved and instead of having every government official commit to trying to solve America’s healthcare crisis, Republicans blocked everything that would have helped Obamacare improve. Even on the state level, Republican governors blocked Medicaid expansion rollouts. In Alabama former Gov. Robert Bentley famously declined $3 billion Medicaid expansion, an injection of funds that the state’s sluggish economy could have appreciated. An injection of healthcare for a state with the second highest rate of diabetes, third worst life expectancy, and fifth highest rate of obesity. Bentley’s reasoning for turning it down? He didn’t want to make the state more dependent on the federal government and he didn’t want to run up the national deficit.
More than half the births in Alabama qualify for Medicaid, meaning the state and its people are poor. The poor still pay taxes to the cities, states, and country they live in, but none of those taxes make healthcare – or education for that matter – affordable.
So one of two things needs to happen: The country needs to allow the middle and lower classes to earn more (wages for both have been famously stagnant for decades now) or some level of government needs to take care of its people.
Now Republicans are pushing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Common sense would say that any attempt to replace healthcare would be driven by a desire to do more, better. More and better coverage for cheaper. Instead, the second GOP health plan was revealed and again, the Trumpcare bill was found to focus more on reducing America’s deficit than providing coverage. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the new bill would take away healthcare for 23 million people meaning Republicans are attempting to lower America’s debt on the backs of the poor.
There is a kernel of truth to their approach though. The federal government is not providing sufficient healthcare coverage right now, and it shouldn’t. It should commit to doing what it’s already doing and stop taking so much of Americans’ tax dollars.
The common misconception is that the American government should provide universal, single-payer healthcare where everybody puts in their fair share of taxes to get free healthcare. The only thing is that that’s not how the successful healthcare countries operate.
Those countries mostly operate their healthcare systems on a municipal or provincial level. The tax dollars go to people that locals know. The accountability is inherent in that the people charged with using those healthcare dollars also know the people whose money they are infusing the healthcare system with. That way everybody is working toward a common goal of keeping your own people healthy and happy, a communal mindset that works in a way a national model could not.
The GOP excuse for not implementing a single-payer system is that America is too big for that to work. And they’re right. States should be individually responsible for providing single-payer, free healthcare to its own residents. That way the market will correct itself and reward the states with good healthcare meaning the ones with bad healthcare will be forced to compete. That is the model that works for America, if the federal government can keep its hands in its own pockets.
If America did have a single-payer system, may be my father would have been going to the doctor regularly his whole life instead of shirking the doctor (read: doctor bills). Had he been going to the doctor his whole life, his health problems probably would not have compounded to this point. If medical care was free for Americans who pay their taxes, Americans would be investing their own money in the health and prosperity of themselves, their neighbours and their family. Seems like a good use of tax money to me. •