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The Real War for U.S. Health Reform

By       Message Elizabeth Olorundare     Permalink
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So, as was the way of years gone by, we watch 2014 doggedly marching along, oblivious to the trail of triumphs and tears it has left in its wake. I have come to think of it as being the Year of the Warrior. From those who have risen against those who used brutal violence against fellow human beings in the name of religion; to those who fought -- and are still fighting -- the onslaught of a similarly deadly and inhuman entity, who stared at death in the eyes of a virus and still held on. From those who passionately voiced their opinions and eloquently spoke out for human rights on all levels; to those who fought to draw their next breath and could say nothing more than a short phrase -- a phrase that has sparked an outpouring of words and emotion. And, as has also been the case with so many other years gone by, there has been the never-ending cycle of news and more news -- ultimately the issues tend to get swept aside by the issues.

One such of such issues is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA. Dubbed "Obamacare", the Affordable Care Act remains the issue in the U.S. healthcare system. It has been tossed and turned, twisted and tilted, praised and maligned. It has spurred debate in the seat of government and upon the virtual pages of the social media. The Affordable Care Act: you either love it or hate it -- whether or not you actually understand it. For me, the hilarious yet sad and complicated truths were driven home by interviews shown on the popular TV show "Jimmy Kimmel Live", where the everyday "person on the street" emphatically claims that the Affordable Care Act is preferable to Obamacare. You can't help but #smh (shaking my head, for the Twitter-uninformed) as you watch well-meaning individuals enthuse about the benefits of the components of the policy, yet confidently state that Obamacare is "un-American" and "socialist."

Oh yeah, the "socialist" angle -- one of the many common myths about the health-reform policy. We've heard this at some point or the other: that universal health coverage somehow equates socialized medicine; that it will lead to rationing of healthcare; that all that is great and unique about the U.S. will be consumed in the deep mediocre morass of conformity and loss of individuality.

The debates rage on, yet beyond the comic relief provided by the media parodies, after stripping down all the myths, and after sweeping away the myriad of debates and denouncements along with the politics and the pundits -- we are still left with the facts. And, while it's true that opinions are like noses (everyone's got them), it's also true that the facts don't lie.

So, what are these facts? Well, it is a fact that health is a basic human right -- and while the world has, in theory, accepted this principle since United Nations declaration in 148, the U.S. healthcare system in its present state is still unable to provide every American with this unassailable right. It is a fact that despite the position of the U.S. at the forefront of health innovations, it lags behind other developed nations because of poor health outcomes, such as higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy. It is a fact that it is crucial to expand and improve health-insurance coverage, to improve access to and quality of care, and to control rising healthcare costs in the U.S. It is also a fact that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, nor will it solve all the problems in the healthcare system. However, while we may not necessarily agree on all the solutions, for a system that is in dire need of serious reform, the Affordable Care Act is poised to give it a pretty good shot.

And as this tumultuous year winds down, we would do well to realize that wars are fought to be won, but no victory can ever be achieved without a clear understanding of the enemy. We need to identify the real enemy, the real issues that need to be dealt with if we are ever to achieve health reform and equitable health coverage in the U.S. It is not about any one group battling another -- and never should have come down to that. Rather, it should be a war against ignorance and lack -- issues that challenge the very fabric of the American society. This is a war that, ultimately, we can only truly win by working together.

References

Jimmy Kimmel Live, published on October 2, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8gA8lHApG0

Merritt, R. (2014). Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): an overview [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Emory University Blackboard: https://classes.emory.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2386176-dt-content-rid-2632186_2/xid-2632186_2 (requires authorization)

Merritt, R. (2014). Health care in other nations [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Emory University Blackboard: https://classes.emory.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2371899-dt-content-rid-2511645_2/xid-2511645_2 (requires authorization)

 

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A clinician and public health professional with a passion for addressing health disparities and the issues facing under-served populations.

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