Obama health care program, it must be remembered that prior to the enactment of such legislation the United States was the only developed country in the world to not have a universal health care system for its citizens (Fein). Although the Obama health care program is a step forward there are still loopholes in said program that leave some segments of American society without adequate insurance coverage.
One of the most frequently cited arguments against the Obama health care plan is the fear it constitutes socialized medicine (Iglehart). For many Americans, even the tinge of possible socialism causes concerns and makes many individuals close their mind to anything that they feel is socialistic. The problem, however, is that many people do not understand what socialism is. If the Obama plan were to be considered as an attempt to socialize the delivery of health care services in the United States the entire industry would have to operate under the direction of the government. All health care professionals would be employees of the government and there is no profit incentive. Under the Obama plan, all health care professionals remain independent and profit is still a motivating factor. What the Obama plan does is expand health care insurance in the United States. By building on the existing health insurance system, the Obama plan provides insurance coverage for that large number of individuals who did not have prior coverage and brings them within the realm of the insured.
Sometime in the fall of 2012 the United States Supreme Court will actually rule on the constitutionality of the Obama health insurance reform legislation (Balkin). The opponents of said legislation have managed to bring a case before said body in an effort to challenge the constitutionality of the Obama plan. The theory behind this alleged unconstitutionality is that the plan is an over extension of the powers granted Congress under the language of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Opponents argue that the Commerce Clause grants Congress only the right to regulate economic activity and not economic inactivity (Hall). In essence, they are arguing that forcing an individual to engage in an economic transaction (i.e. purchasing insurance) with a private entity is unconstitutional. Proponents of the Obama plan argue that Congress has the ability to redistribute revenues for the public purposes and ensuring the health of the public is a legitimate exercise of governmental power and authority. How the Supreme Court might decide on this issue is still in the air but its determination will go a long way toward deciding the ultimate viability of the Obama health care plan.
One of the problems with traditional health insurance coverage is that for most Americans such coverage is dependent upon continued employment. Lose a job and there is a strong likelihood that you are now uninsured. Although a temporary program, COBRA, exists that allows you to maintain your coverage for a short period of time such coverage is quite expensive and often not as extensive as the employer funded program (Retsinas). Under the Obama plan, losing one’s employment does not mean the loss of your health insurance.
There is also strong argument that the Obama plan will actually reduce costs. Presently, a large percentage of individuals, who are without health insurance of any kind, use the nation’s emergency rooms as their primary care physicians. Because emergency rooms are forced to see all patients regardless of whether or not they have insurance coverage the costs of providing such services are passed along to consumers and insurance companies. Obama’s health care plan would spread this cost out so that there would be no need to have these costs absorbed by those who are insured (American Medical Association). Everyone would be insured and there would no need to shift uncovered costs.
In a related issue an argument has also been offered that the Obama plan may serve to eliminate one of the primary causes of personal bankruptcy in America. Prior to the enactment of the Obama plan one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy was the accumulation of medical expenses that individuals were unable to pay. The Obama plan provides everyone with medical insurance coverage and there should, therefore, be little occasion for anyone to accumulate large, unpaid medical bills. Proponents, however, take a much different position. Arguing that the opportunity still exists for large out-of-pocket expenses to be accumulated, such individuals argue that the Obama plan should have little or no impact on the rate of bankruptcy in America due to medical expenses.
One of the other concerns often expressed by opponents of the Obama plan is that it will result in the loss of the right to choose one’s own physician. The almost familial relationship between patient and physician in the United States is valued by many and is something that many want to protect. The fear among many is that the introduction of the Obama plan will interfere with the perpetuation of these relationships.
Critics of the Obama plan, however, argue that the plan would cause a decline in the level of health care in America. One of the reasons why the United States enjoys such a high level of health care is the fact that there is a high profit incentive. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies work aggressively to develop new products in order to garner the large profits that accompany such products. Critics argue that Obama’s plan would result in these new innovations being passed on to everyone equally and the lack of exclusivity would diminish profits which would eventually cause many businesses to leave the industry.
It is also argued that Obama’s plan will result in extensive wait times to see specialists. The critics of the Obama plan point to the long delays in being able to see physicians in countries where plans similar to Obama’s presently exist and such critics argue that this is the fate that awaits Americans once the Obama plan takes full effect. Additionally, the critics point to the problems inherent in the operation of the Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security programs and suggest that the same can be expected in the government’s running of the health insurance industry.
With all the financial reasons offered for and against the Obama plan, there remains the humanitarian issue as well. Better health for everyone is a goal that most people would not argue against. One of the driving forces behind the enactment of the Obama plan was the fact that so many Americans were living without health insurance and that, as a result, they were not seeking medical care. Not surprisingly, a great percentage of these were children. Proving everyone with some form of health insurance through the Obama plan would serve to eliminate this problem. However, opponents argue that the surge caused by the entrance of so many individuals into the health care market will only serve to diminish the overall care for everyone. In a field that is already suffering from significant shortages of qualified personnel, the sudden rise in demand will only serve to stall the system and no one will be afforded adequate care. Although this appears like a harsh approach, supporters of the view point out that it is pragmatic one and one that must be considered.
The advantages and disadvantages mentioned herein are only a few of the arguments concerning Obama’s health care plan. There are a variety of other arguments offered and more, both for and against the plan, appear every day. The viability of each varies but the issue is an acrimonious one and it is deeply dividing the nation. The debate can be expected to continue for some time and universal agreement is not likely. The best that can be hoped for is that the Obama plan will at least diminish the unfairness that presently exists and that the plan will provide coverage to those millions of Americans who have been living without coverage of any kind and that, in time, an acceptable solution is found.
American Medical Association. “Affordable Health Care for All Americans.” Journal of the American Medical Association (2008): 1927-1928.
Balkin, Jack M. “The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate for Health Insurance.” New England Journal of Medicine (2010): 482-483.
Fein, Rashi. “Universal Health Insurance – Let the Debate Resume.” Journal of the American Medical Association (2003): 818-820.
Hall, Mark A. “Commerce Clause Challenges to Health Care Reform.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review (2011): 1825-1872.
Iglehart, John K. “Congressional Action on Health Care Reform – An Update.” New England Journal of Medicine (2009): 2593-2595.
Retsinas, J. “COBRA: legislation and its import.” Journal of Health Social Policy (1998): 13-22.
National Health Care reform
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