ABOVE PHOTO: Sen. Ted Cruz appears at a meeting of the Heritage Foundation at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. He was there to discuss the push to remove funding for federal health care law, also called Obamacare.
(AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Michael Ainsworth)
By Wendell P. Simpson
While citizens in most of the world’s Western democracies enjoy the security of a state-run and supported national health care system, Americans are caught in the middle of a sectarian and philosophical political battle that leaves their health care needs in the arbitrary hands of market-driven, for-profit healthcare entities.
In March, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA) known colloquially as ‘Obamacare’. This sweeping legislation signals the most significant regulatory change in American healthcare coverage since the advent of Medicaid and Medicare. Like Britain’s NHS model, the ultimate goal of the act is to reduce health care costs for both insurers and the insured, and millions of Americans who were previous left lingering without health care benefits will now be availed an affordable healthcare option. Under the auspices of Obamacare, health care costs to citizens and insurers alike are reduced, access to health care services becomes easier and more user-friendly, and millions of Americans who could not previously afford private coverage and were left lingering without health care benefits will now be availed and affordable health care option.
But this historic legislation continues to face significant resistance from those residing on the Right hand side of the political aisle. States like Texas have opted out of implementing Obamacare, choosing instead to sacrifice billions in federal health care aid, leaving many of their citizens in a health care void. And anti-Obamacare lobbyists have endeavored to smear the national system as an egregious form of ‘socialism’, the Right’s ogre of choice.
England’s National Health Service (NHS) provides the entire UK population of 64,000,000 comprehensive health care coverage and services that include local doctor visits, hospitalization, a cursory dental plan and all major surgery (elective surgeries such as cosmetic procedures are NOT covered). Created in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) consists of four taxpayer funded healthcare systems within the United Kingdom. These systems forgo individual private insurance in favor of a ecumenical and comprehensive government-run national healthcare paradigm. The individual systems are: National Health Service for England proper; Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSCNI); NHS Scotland; and NHS Wales (NHS Wales was a component part of England’s NHS structure until it became independent in 1969).
Some critics cite the higher tax rates imposed upon UK citizens as a cause for concern; but the fact is, the individual tax rates in America and the UK are exponentially different. The US individual federal tax rate rises to 39 percent (federal), 13 percent (state) and 3 percent local; the UK tax rate is a flat 45 percent.
The federal statute that codified Obamacare is essentially an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. Under this expansion, an additional 17 million people who do not currently have health insurance coverage will now be covered under the umbrella of an expanded care coverage. The overriding goal of the health care expansion–while not quite as comprehensive as the UK model–is to provide a safety net of coverage in the United States for the poor and indigent, to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower costs to individuals and the government and to compel insurance companies to expand coverage while offering the same rates regardless of any pre-existing conditions. It also aims to provide increased competition among insurance carriers, thereby significantly reducing costs.
There are conditions for which the ACA would apply to individual citizens: Anyone earning 138 percent of the poverty level or less, or about $32,500 for a family of four, will be eligible for Medicaid in states that choose to expand the program. In states that don’t, eligibility for federal subsidies to buy private coverage starts at $23,550 for the same size family. (Those earning below those levels won’t be able to get assistance with their insurance premiums. Low-income people are also rendered ineligible for subsidies if they have an offer of insurance deemed “affordable” under the law, meaning that it costs no more than 9.5 percent of their incomes.)
Critics contend that the formula sets up a tricky calculation for businesses that employ low income workers and add that Obamacare equates to government mandating the actions of private entreprenuers.
“By offering coverage they likely disqualify the employee and dependents from qualifying for federal subsidies,” said Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health in Washington, a lobbying group for large companies offering health insurance including Boeing Co., Kroger Co. and Apple Inc. in an interview with the New York Times. “The coverage may be too much for an employee to afford. Lots of employers are agonizing with the decision of whether or not this is going to be boom or bust for their employees.”
Republicans, in opposition to the new law, have branded it a form of socialism. Last week, Tea Party-aligned Congressmen Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa) told Al-Jazeera that Obamacare was akin to socialism.
“When the government controls everybody’s health care, pays for everybody’s health care, it is the government controlling everything. They have the power then to tell everybody how much they should put in, how much they take out,” Gohmert said.
“Just think of this: Is it socialism to nationalize a company? Is it socialism to take over banks, insurance companies, car companies? Is that socialism? The socialists say it is,” said King, linking Health care reform to the bank bailouts. “It’s control of the means of production (and) controlling the means of production is more in the realm of socialism.”