Healthcare for All: A Democratic Dream?
Written by Peter Huston
In 2010, Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare or Romneycare. The law provides tens of millions of Americans with much-needed health insurance and prevents insurance companies from deciding the fate of sick Americans. While the law is not the needed universal health coverage, it is a step in the direction of viewing healthcare as a right for all people, not just a privilege for those who can afford it. After the bodies and lives of the American people have been cared for, we can then turn our attention to more long term issues such as global warming, foreign affairs, and economic recovery.
The healthcare debate is not only political, but is also moral. Every year, 45,000 people die because they do not have health insurance. We as decent human beings, and especially as Christians, should be doing everything possible to prevent these needless deaths. It is so easy to forget that there are actual people who have to live day to day, hoping they don’t get sick because, if they do, they might not be able to afford groceries. The majority of people without healthcare are not unemployed people looking for a handout. They are hard working Americans whose situation causes them to suffer through no fault of their own. For people who already enjoy health insurance to sit back and say that some do not have the right to get the treatment they need is offensive. As Followers of Jesus, this debate pertains to us in another way. The first thing Jesus commands the Apostles in Matthew 10 to do after proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven is to cure the sick. While most of us will not be doctors or have miraculous healing powers, we can help cure the sick by supporting access to doctors for everyone and by voting for representatives who will make universal health coverage become a reality.
People often like to tout the American healthcare system as one of the best in the world. These people are extremely misguided. The United States spends more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, yet the system was ranked 37th globally by the World Health Organization, placing just two spots above Cuba. France occupied the top of the WHO list. The French system of healthcare manages to provide universal coverage while spending considerably less money than the United States. While the French do have to pay higher taxes to help fund universal coverage, it is a small price to pay for potentially life-saving care. As Mike Drucker of The Onion puts it, “If you are willing to have your taxes hurt foreign people, then you should be willing to have your taxes help your fellow citizens.”
The main reason I support Barack Obama is because he has been successful in achieving what many presidents of the past century have not been able to do, which is passing healthcare reform. I do think that our healthcare system needs much more reform than the Affordable Care Act provides, but in the current state of hyper-partisan politics, that is not likely. I would ultimately like to see a universal healthcare system similar to that of most other developed countries in which the government covers the cost of healthcare. If Obama is not reelected, Mitt Romney and other republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare and send us right back to the status quo of tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance and tens of thousands dying every year from preventable causes. A society cannot function on a globally competitive scale if it is still struggling to provide the basic needs of health and life to its citizens at home. It is a simple application of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs on an economic level.