It’s really quite astonishing how quickly people forget. For as far back as almost anyone can remember, adequate affordable health care had always been on the top of the list of concerns for many families and individuals. Premiums were consistently on the rise. Private insurance plans were much too expensive for individuals and small-business owners. College students were getting booted off their parents’ plans before finishing school because they were too old and deemed independent. Pre-existing conditions prevented normally healthy people who suddenly became sick from getting health insurance to cover their medical issues. The list goes on and on. The reality was, being uninsured was a risky bet and insurers really had all the power over access to health care. But in 2007 and 2008 a first-term U.S. senator running for president vowed, if he were elected, that affordable health care would be a top priority. And so, once Barack Obama was elected, he fast-tracked health-care reform, and in 2010 the Affordable Care Act was born.
There is no doubting that the Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as Obamacare, is a complicated bill, heavy-laden with medical jargon and legal language that most people really can’t wrap their minds around. But the fact of the matter is that, as soon as it was put into law, health insurance options improved right away, including young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turned 26, subsidies becoming available for individuals and small-business owners and pre-existing conditions not being reasons insurers could turn people away. Some people even experienced a drop in their premiums. While we can complain until we are blue in the face about the technological dysfunctions with the opening of the enrollment period, over 9.4 million people have now signed up. But still, so many resent the president for enacting this law despite all the good it has brought. (Republicans in the House of Representatives have already tried to repeal the law over 60 times thus far and continue to do so even though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its legality.) Why is that?
In terms of implementing the Affordable Care Act, it’s by no means what most would consider cheap. There are all sorts of fees and taxes associated with providing affordable options, which affects not only the higher-income families but also the middle class and will eventually affect premiums as well. Perhaps the best solution would have been to implement single-payer health care, where everyone pays into the pot and everyone is covered. But that would never fly in the U.S. It just makes too much sense for everyone to get health care. It has been said, mainly by conservatives, that health care is a privilege, not a right, which seems odd since being healthy is always a top priority in everyone’s life. Going bankrupt and losing our homes over cancer treatment or a heart attack seems ludicrous and the antithesis of the pursuit of happiness.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives, the mandates, the taxes and fees, but in the scheme of things, if everyone has access to affordable health care, if everyone is covered and won’t face dire financial uncertainty due to an illness, if we are all better off in terms of our health, even if there is a slight dent in the wallet, what’s all the fuss about? Have we strayed so far from our humanity that we wouldn’t dare spend a cent more to support the well-being of another? The 9.4 million people who have already signed up would surely contend that this legislation is essentially a lifesaver, and in some cases, literally. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then it would be safe to say that improved and affordable access to health care for all surely lifts us all as a nation.