Friday, 29 June 2012

Obamacare: Dissenters are asking the wrong questions

As is the case with absolutely any verdict, policy or bill passed in America, the voice of dissent towards the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Obamacare was large and vocal.  In the U.S., they call it socialism when the government gives anything for "free" to some sector of the population.  Conversely when government helps the private sector (like the General Motors bailout or any deregulation), they are "in the back pockets of corporate America."  When it comes to their government, no developed nation is as polarized as the U.S.

For a minute, look past budgetary constraints, politics and even your sense of whether this bill is right or wrong.  Note this comment made by an anonymous lady on Reddit:

"I cried. My uterine cancer is back, and on the off chance I survive, or decide to treat it, I would never, ever have been able to get private insurance again. There aren't words for how grateful I am."

This isn't me trying to show support for Obamacare.  What is hard to fathom is how Americans cannot agree to unite and prioritize something as fundamental as affordable healthcare for all.  What's scary is the number of misinformed people that believe sweeping statements like the ones below:

While America debates, the world is moving on

In Thailand, where the gross domestic product per person is a fifth of America's, just 1% of the population lacks health insurance.  China is busy completing a $124 billion program that will see 90 percent of its residents covered.  "This is truly a global movement," said Dr. Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. "As countries advance, they are realizing that creating universal healthcare systems is a necessity for long-term economic development."

While America haggles ad nauseam over the issue, it is getting left behind by the rest of the world.

"This country can't afford it"

So the greatest concern from those opposing this bill stems from America's ability to afford such an extensive system.  Their concern however is misdirected.  This is an issue of humanity, and money should not be the determinant of who gets to live and who gets denied access to treatment.  Access to healthcare is a basic human right.  There are certain pillars any civilised society should deem sacred: education and healthcare for all are the first two that come to mind. 

Government spends according to its budget, and the budget is a balancing act where the items of the highest priority get the most money.

The real question people should ask then, is not whether healthcare reform is something America can afford or not; but rather what the U.S. needs to reduce or give up to ensure that it happens. 

The attitude of citizens needs to be that affordable access to healthcare must happen one way or another.  It must become a non-negotiable pillar like the right to freedom of speech.  That's how it is in countries like France and the Nordic nations.  American citizens have been lax on demanding something they should have had decades ago.  

It's well known America spends more money than any other nation on its military.  What you may not know is the U.S. spends more on military than the next ten countries combined.  Were its priorities straight, it could afford to give all 300 million of its citizens world class healthcare, with ease.

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