The underlying basic problem with Obamacare is that it might be termed "a vast project based on a half-vast idea." Yes, the pronounceable pun on "half-vast" is intentional. The difficulties with the Obamacare (aka Healthcare.gov) website and with those oft-repeated presidential statements that "if you like your present healthcare plan, you can keep it" have been inevitable, and regretfully are only the tip of what promises to be an ongoing iceberg of Obamacare problems.
The clear truth of the matter is that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is fatally-flawed, albeit in many vital areas an improvement over the past American health-care mess. It should be obvious to anyone with the perspicacity of seafood that the wealthiest nation on earth also has had one of the worst health-care systems on the planet, with nearly fifty million Americans having no health insurance at all and a comparable number under-insured, with no coverage for pre-existing conditions for many people, with vastly-inflated health care costs due to private insurers' price-gouging and very wasteful practices in the health care industry, and with a host of other -- or even worse -- evils.
But, after both visionaries and progressives had worked for decades to provide this nation with a decent health-care system at least comparable to those in Europe and elsewhere, what actually emerged as the Affordable Care Act was such a hodge-podge of uncompromising compromises that it is essentially impossible to implement. If Obamacare's problems seem bad now, they are going to get a lot worse soon. It is high time to face those facts.
Of course, none of this is surprising. The rabid Repbulicans in Congress and elsewhere have been determined that Obamacare fail miserably, and have taken every conceivable step -- and some inconceivable ones -- to that end. They have made no bones about their desire to undercut and sabotage the Affordable Care Act's implementation -- but the underlying problem with Obamacare is that its very premises are fatally flawed. Combining national health insurance with the consummate greed of private health insurers is comparable to combining Capitalism with Communism, or religion with atheism, or many other inherent dichotomies which cannot be effectively combined.
For decades, America has needed a sound system of government-based national health insurance, such as that of our neighbor to the north, Canada, and of most progressive European nations. Only a national government has the ability to organize and provide decent health care to all citizens -- as a right, not a privilege. The cowardice of the Obama Administration combined with its ineffective catering to the demands of such Republican leaders as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell produced the Affordable Care Act, with over two thousand pages of complex, unpopular and even unenforceable provisions. For example, the requirement that everyone buy into Obamacare or face fines for non-participation, while perhaps necessary to balance the health costs of seriously-sick people with those of the rest of us, has been unpopular and counter-productive. You can bet that all such negative aspects of Obamacare will continue to be the focus of an endless litany of complaints from its opponents, while its many benefits continue to get swept under the rug.
Unless and until a single-payer health insurance system is implemented in the United States, removing private insurers from their role which combines high overhead and excessive costs with the disqualification of millions from needed care, America will continue to pay the highest costs among industrialized nations for second-and-third-rate health care, and even that for only some of our people. Obamacare will not -- and indeed cannot -- cure those problems, as it was conceived in presidential cowardice and is now being implemented in administrative incompetence. This health-care egg cannot be unscrambled.
As painful as it might seem to return to the drawing board and start all over, we have excellent models in other nations (such as in Scandinavia) which can be modified for the American setting. We need not try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to national health care -- particularly when, with Obamacare, we seem to have implemented a square wheel at that. Sometimes, half a loaf is worse than none. It is time to move on and move forward, keeping the best of Obamacare and changing the rest now. America deserves no less.
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)