I often wonder why the Republicans chose the name “Obamacare” in their attempts to ridicule Barack Obama’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” After all, the first half, “Obama,” merely gives credit to the person who orchestrated the passage of the legislation and “care” is a benign word, even a pleasant word. Maybe they liked it better than the “Make the Rich Pay for Poor Children’s Medical Treatment Act.” Or maybe they thought that people hate “Obama” so much that just by saying his name it will make them angry. The bottom line is that it seems to be a lot like the phrase “Yankee Doodle,” originally meant as an insult, but adopted and even embraced by the target of the taunt.
Now that the new law has mostly survived, what does it mean for real-life Americans? There are many articles, like this one, that point out some things and make a few predictions, but no one seems to know the answers to two basic questions that are on my mind. What kind of insurance will ordinary Americans be able to purchase with regard to A) Quality of Care and B) Cost of Care? I’m not convinced that the new act has meaningful price controls on premiums or that the quality of care will be well-regulated. In fact, I will predict that the insurance companies will essentially take the following position: “Sure, you can have all of those new bells and whistles demanded by the Act, but you’re going to need to pay for it.” Here are some of those bells and whistles. And then the American public will likely not be witness to the intense behind-the-scenes lobbying that will result in 20% premium increases every year. I hope not, but I’m not optimistic.
Here’s another issue. Take a look at the numbers thrown around by many conservatives. Many conservatives are squawking that this is supposedly one of the biggest tax increases in the history of America. And see here. Many articles that claim that the Act requires $500 billion in new taxes; if you actually read the articles closely, though, they are talking about $500 billion over the next ten years, which equates to $50 billion per year. This means that “Obamacare” is only going to cost HALF as much, per year, as the American military adventure in Afghanistan. It amazes me how most conservative don’t care about how much their wars cost. Wars are sacred and one must never question that American wars are actually working to protect Americans, even though it is more likely that an American will get killed by a piece of furniture falling on her than by a terrorist. And this has no connection with the fact that we are blowing up poor people in desolate areas for $2 billion dollars per WEEK. In other words, the corrupt and disgraceful Afghanistan war is costing twice as much as a program that will do some good for many people.
And when are we going to find out what happened behind closed doors at the United States Supreme Court. It sounds like Justice Roberts had a Darth Vader moment. My guess is that after having to bear the ideologue right wing of the Court for years, he decided he was tired of being associated with those guys. I’m merely suggesting that although he was under intense political pressure to fall in line for another 5-4 conservative wing victory, he bolted. I suspect he had an epiphany. Maybe he wanted to be invited to cocktail parties hosted by more open-minded sorts of folks. Maybe he’s taken endless shit for many of his other votes and this was the case where he wanted to try to prove that he had a heart to go with his smile. Maybe he’s thinking about building a respectable legacy for himself. There’s a many fascinating hints that the process was highly acrimonious. There’s even evidence that Roberts switched his vote at the last minute and that he even authored what turned out to be the dissent. We can only hope that this was a divorce rather than merely a disagreement, and that the right wing will need to earn Roberts’ vote from now on.
Obama’s new certified program leaves open too many question for me to celebrate much. That will be the way I see it until I get a straight answer as to how much my policy will cost and how good my health care will be under that policy. And how well the government can control the cost of premiums into the future. These are the sorts of basic questions I would demand answer to before buying anything else. Would you buy a TV without knowing these things? A washer or dryer? This conspicuous lack on information is why I’m not celebrating much, even though Obama’s program has some excellent provisions (e.g., portability). I’m not optimistic in the long run that Obama’s version of a health insurance plan will survive. I believe, along with Dr.Margaret Flowers, that the long-term answer lies is single-payer:
Medicare and Medicaid must be left out of the discussion entirely until leadership has the courage to address the real reasons why our health care costs are rising, the toxic environment created by investor owned insurances and the profit-driven health care industry.
Health care spending in the United States is the highest in the world and in some cases is two times higher than spending in other industrialized nations, which achieve nearly universal coverage with better health outcomes than the U.S. Our soaring health care costs outpace our growth in GDP, inflation and wages. By any measure it is an unsustainable situation.