The Affordable Care Act was nearly dead on arrival

The Affordable Care Act was nearly dead on arrival
Daniel Borman/Creative Commons
Early in his presidency, Barakc Obama tried to get the youth involved in the fight for healthcare reform with events like this 2009 rally at the University of Maryland.

It was the winter of our discontent, 2009. A season of bank failures, massive layoffs and $5-a-gallon gasoline.

Finally, a fractured country could at least agree on one thing: This had to change.

So President Barack Obama set out to deactivate the next bomb awaiting the U.S. economy, the one ticking inside our bloated, beleaguered health system.

Although Affordable Care Act enemy House Speaker John Boehner repeatedly claims the U.S. has "the best health-care delivery system in the world," the World Health Organization puts us at number 36.
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons
Although Affordable Care Act enemy House Speaker John Boehner repeatedly claims the U.S. has "the best health-care delivery system in the world," the World Health Organization puts us at number 36.
Occupy Wall Street protestors at Pfizer's world headquarters in New York. The pharmaceutical giant benefits from the government's inability to negotiate a better price for their drugs -- Canadians pay about a third less for Pfizer's Celebrex than Americans do.
Michael Fleshman/Creative Commons
Occupy Wall Street protestors at Pfizer's world headquarters in New York. The pharmaceutical giant benefits from the government's inability to negotiate a better price for their drugs -- Canadians pay about a third less for Pfizer's Celebrex than Americans do.

Since the 1990s, insurance premiums had averaged double-digit annual increases. America was spending over $7,500 per person per year — 50 percent more than Norway, the next-largest contender. Health spending alone was chewing up one-sixth of the U.S. economy, double that of competitors like Japan, and putting American employers at a severe disadvantage.

Worse, we were paying Maserati premiums for something that looked a lot like a used Kia. Though pols like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) loved to bray that America had "the best health-care delivery system in the world," it wasn't remotely so. The World Health Organization ranked us an embarrassing 36th, behind such notables as Costa Rica, Colombia and Saudi Arabia. Other rankings routinely put the U.S. near the bottom of the industrialized world.

"We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it," Obama told Congress in 2009. "This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages."

Big Medicine had done its best to keep it that way. Since 1999, it had spent nearly $6 billion on lobbying — three times what the next-largest industry, insurance, had spent. An obedient Congress had allowed it to build a system in which millions couldn't afford coverage, huge swaths of the country were essentially served by monopolies, and prices continued to go up and up.

"In the decade up to 2009, 79% of all the growth in household income was absorbed by health care," says Dr. Brian Klepper, CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health. "Everything in Washington is rigged, but the thing most rigged is health care, because they have even more money than the banks. Both sides take money at a rapid clip from the industry in exchange for getting their own way. So everything is done in the special interest, and nothing is done in the common interest."

But that spring, with an enraged electorate and the economy in tatters, Obama was given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to break Big Med's stranglehold. He vowed to do it the old-fashioned way: by introducing competition, forcing Big Med to earn its keep.

Everyone would sit "around a big table," Obama had told a crowd in Virginia the year before. "We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators, insurance companies, drug companies. They'll get a seat at the table. They just won't be able to buy every chair."

Five years later, it's hard to argue with Obamacare's success. Some seven million people have signed up for insurance. The sick can no longer be barred from coverage, nor can the chronically ill be kicked to the curb.

Yet Republicans still rail that Obamacare is some socialist perversion. Democrats, meanwhile, often treat the plan as an illegitimate child they'd rather not acknowledge.

What both sides neglect to mention is their complicity in sabotaging the bill, selling out an unprecedented opportunity to the very guys who created the time bomb in the first place.

There was an obvious cure

The president's ultimate goal was coverage for the country's 48 million uninsured. In places like Europe and Canada, the government pays basic health-care costs for all citizens. This type of insurance is often called "single-payer," because one payer, the government, covers basic medical care.

Anyone wondering how it might function need look no further than Medicare, which runs all senior health care in this country. It's arguably the most popular government program in America, and one of the more cost-effective.

Start with the cost of administration. Medicare's ranges between 2 and 5 percent of its budget. For private insurance, the average is 12 percent. The Government Accountability Office once estimated that this simple savings alone would be "more than enough to offset the expense of universal coverage."

Moreover, a single provider would have the size to negotiate better prices from providers and pharmaceutical companies. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, this would save another $400 billion — and provide a boon for American business, reducing labor costs by 10 to 12 percent.

A CBS poll found that 59 percent of the public favored a government health plan. Unfortunately, the body politic is more impressed with power than with the will of the people. One of the biggest players in Congress — the insurance industry — wasn't about to get squeezed out of its lucrative role as middle man.

Insurers treat single-payer like Israelis do the Palestinians: as a threat to their very existence. With a single-payer system, most health insurers would vanish overnight. So the industry set out to ensure that such a program never saw the light of day.

"Of course they don't want it," wrote Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, in a 2009 opinion piece. "A public option would squeeze their profits and force them to undertake major reforms. That's the whole point."

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10 comments
muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

Thank you, Mr. President, for Obamacare.  While Single Payer would have been better, Obamacare is much better than what we had.  Plus, it makes conservative's heads explode.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@muhutdafuga  The fucking stupid and ignorant one attempting to defend the fucking inept one.


A liberal circle jerk.  

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @muhutdafuga Poor little angry fishingforyounghairlessboys.  I was right about his head exploding.  He gets so angry when he has nothing to say.  Readers:  He is what you get when you vote republican.  He is a typical republican.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@muhutdafuga  ... Liberkookianism doesn't even work in theory, much less the political furnace of reality.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues STILL no example of where libertarianism has worked.

Libertarians just want to end that "age of consent" problem they have.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues Still no example of a place where libertarianism has worked.  Time to cue up the crickets! 

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @muhutdafugaOnce again, fishingforyounghairlessboys shows readers the truth about conservatives, hairless is the very operational definition of conservative...you can call them conservatives, republicans, or if the name republican is too dirty for them now, libertarian.  They vote for the same people.

Next time you decide to spew on the internet, you might give an example of somewhere libertarianism has worked. 

http://youtu.be/7QDv4sYwjO0

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@muhutdafuga @fishingblues  


"Readers" --- hahahahaha

No one reads your tripe you stupid retarded bitch.


How can I be a typical republican when I'm a libertarian?  (That's a rhetorical question - That means you do not need to answer.)  Fuck you are stupid.   


Must be a bitch being that stupid, that fat and that ugly.


The wretched trifecta.  The hideous hat-trick.  

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @muhutdafuga Wrong.  The USA is a good example, as is Germany, Sweden, and most of the countries with the highest standard of living.  For conservative libertarians, there's Somalia.

 
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