American Healthcare - Part II: The Healthcare Divide
July 1st, 2012 | Back to Blog Listing

There are few things responsible for creating more division in the United States than when politicians express radical stances on hot-button issues. These issues mysteriously tend to pop up around election cycles and are particularly good at distracting voters from real problems that much more significantly impact the nation. For years, politicians have been utilizing this method to prey upon human emotion and sway voter opinion in the direction they choose. In one manner of thinking this is exactly what politicking is, but it is the abuse of this methodology that has hit an absolute tipping point. That tipping point is resulting in dire consequences for the country. In more recent years, politicians have included topics such as abortion, gay marriage, government spending, gun control, and immigration, just to name a few. Though these issues are certainly relevant to public discourse and should be debated, they typically receive a significantly disproportionate amount of attention when compared to other issues. This is not because they are important topics that will affect the majority of American citizens. They are instead political fluff for well-oiled campaign strategies. Regardless of how intense politicians may appear to stand on these issues, or how frequently they may bring them up, rarely will we hear any type of legitimate stance, be it for or against. For example, Republicans have frequently rallied behind their strong opposition to abortion, but never have I heard a plan or even a strategy for how they would intend to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Similarly, for years Democrats have toted themselves as the party that promotes equality for all, and yet only a select few have shown the political fortitude to speak in favor of same-sex marriage despite the glaring discrimination it presents to gay and lesbian Americans. And so it goes that every election cycle the general electorate is treated to what appear to be intense debates, but somehow remain oblivious to the fact that nothing substantial is ever being said. Unfortunately, this has become somewhat of the political norm for politics in America.

Although this behavior is discussed in a later chapter, I have included a brief summary here to remind readers of how disheartening the political game has become. What was once a tool for offering hope and new ideas to the country has become nothing but a marketing gimmick full of cheap rhetoric and empty promises. However, despite our being conditioned to accept this political process, one of the very few talking points that actually carried some follow through from the 2008 Presidential election was that of healthcare reform. President Obama spoke extensively of his intentions to radically overhaul the system, and for better or worse, he definitely did follow through.

As the 2008 presidential race raged on, the Democratic Party consistently and clearly expressed their intentions to pass some form of universal healthcare upon a presidential victory. Then-Senator Obama was very much in line with his party’s position and at virtually every rally, interview, and debate; he articulated his intent to push for significant healthcare reform should he be elected. For that matter, other Democratic hopefuls (particularly Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) echoed similar sentiments throughout respective campaign trails. While partisan crowds of Democrats cheered for the hard stance their party was promising to take on healthcare reform, equally partisan Republican crowds were quick to label the Democrat’s ideas as impractical, irresponsible, and even socialist. Unfortunately, aside from suggesting tax credits, Republicans never felt the need to offer any real type of plan for how the country could deal with the bureaucratic and corporate-driven debacle of the American healthcare system. It would therefore stand to reason that either Republican constituents associated healthcare reform as a typical hot-button talking point with no anticipation of follow-through from Democrats, or that Republicans simply had not found the American healthcare system to be broken.

And so upon being elected by a clear majority, and eventually inaugurated on January 20th, 2009, President Obama quickly began pushing Congress for new healthcare legislation, just as he said he would. To the credit of the Democrats, this was actually very much in line with their boldest campaign promise. It therefore followed that since “we the people” elected the leaders in a series of majority votes, and those leaders introduced legislation on par with what they claimed they would, the democratic process was by all textbook measures quite a success. Of course, if one factors the actual legislation that was passed and the manner in which it was passed, keeping campaign promises should have seemed like little value.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, was anything but a bill with the best interest of the American citizenry in mind. Members of Congress created a massive 2,200-page text rife with bloated spending provisions, special interest projects, hidden taxes, and undisclosed IRS provisions. All of these hidden agendas would be revealed in the ensuing weeks and months after the bill had already been executed into law. Rather than to try to provide some type of constructive approach towards minimum healthcare expectations, Congress instead federally mandated the purchase of private insurance. Thus, for the first time in American history, all American citizens became legally indebted to private corporations literally from the day they are born. The legislative process contained an almost a complete lack of transparency on all fronts. Members of Congress, predominantly Democrats, were anything but shy talking about backroom deals being made. Even the final addendum to the bill was passed controversially using the method of reconciliation, a Congressional process otherwise reserved for budgetary bills that specifically restricts debate time. This process was used to make at least thirteen significant changes to the healthcare bill after it had already been passed.

On March 9th, 2010, twelve days before the House of Representatives voted on the bill, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had the audacity to publicly inform an audience at the National Association of Counties that the bill would have to be passed before it could be read. Specifically, she said to her audience:

“You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention. It's about diet, not diabetes. It's going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

What a relief it was to know that politicians of the twenty-first century have become so trustworthy that Americans no longer even need to read the governing legislation they have been elected to create! Needless to say, transcripts and videos of her statement quickly circulated the Internet prompting outrage from those who already opposed to the bill, and indifference from those who supported it.

I had even heard it argued by Democratic supporters of the legislation that Republicans should embrace the bill due to its similarity to Massachusetts’s law. The claim was that after all, it was essentially the same type of healthcare package that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had signed into law on April 12th, 2006 while Governor of the state. Unfortunately, the irony of such a statement seemed to be lost on many of those same people. That is to say, if the Obama healthcare package was anything like Mitt Romney’s (which in many ways it was), then why would liberals be so inclined to support something that had been previously adopted by a conservative, right-wing, exceptionally wealthy, former Republican governor? Surely those same left-leaning individuals would not have cheerfully supported such a federal proposal from Mitt Romney had he won the general election?

But none of this, not the lack of transparency, not the special interest clauses, not the mandate tying individuals to private industry, not even Speaker Pelosi’s insinuation that Congress should simply pass legislation before Americans even read it, seemed to sway public opinion one way or another. The problem, it seems, is that those who were already behind the Democrats were willing to take anything that was thrown in their general direction, regardless of how senseless or poorly crafted it may have been. But this is the culture we have created; legislative particulars and practicalities are of little importance to people, provided that they come from the far left, or the far right.

Still, the fact that most Republicans and conservatives were so outspoken and appalled by the passing of the legislation does, in one light, appear to be a bit hypocritical. That is to say, given that the right wing of the country enjoyed virtually no oversight and exercised such disregard for the Constitution over the better part of eight years, why would anyone have expected that the Democrats would suddenly be inclined to play fairly after their Congressional and Presidential victories?

So while I would fully agree that conservatives should express their disdain for this type of radically polar legislation and legislative process (as should liberals), the numerous one-sided liberties taken by President Bush’s Administration just prior should also not be forgotten. A short list of these accomplishments includes invading Iraq and Afghanistan without Congressional declarations of war, justifying the need for deficit spending, providing financial military aid to Pakistan, curiously shifting focus from Osama Bin Laden to Saddam Hussein, enacting the Patriot Act into law, holding prisoners on foreign soil without charges, endorsing an amendment to federally ban same-sex marriage, and providing bailout capital to some of the country’s largest corporations while ignoring a struggling middle class of people.

And therein lies the back and forth game of radical policymaking that has successfully permeated American culture. The painfully obvious reality that neither Democratic nor Republican constituents want to acknowledge is that engaging in such radical policymaking does not work. Moreover, it is dangerous and divisive. As we have witnessed for years, implementing such policies will only result in equally radical ones of opposing ideals being implemented with the next changing of the guard. Of course this type of policymaking can only exist for so long. Eventually policies become so on the fringe that civil unrest becomes the only remaining option.

If only we could find a way to convince people to consider both social and fiscal responsibilities with some form of moderation, and without the need to draw from the far ends of the spectrum. If only we could convince people that instead of providing unbridled loyalty to a party, that they instead speak out and challenge their party to do what is best for everyone, instead of merely appeasing themselves. In that alternate reality we might be sitting with a model for healthcare that was fiscally responsible, socially conscious, and soundly economical for consumers. Instead, the country is left to deal with a political and social nightmare that is likely to waste tremendous time and resources on lawsuits, repeals, and Congressional challenges for years to come. Instead, the country is left with a bill that will almost undoubtedly raise the cost of healthcare while simultaneously reducing the quality of it. And instead, the country is divided in half, outraged at one another’s lack of moral obligation and fiscal sense, respectively from the left and right.

There is a much more damaging and fundamental problem with the United States remaining so divided on the topic of healthcare. Unlike so many of the hot-button topics that have little significance in the grander scheme of the country, the fundamental ability of human beings to heal one another represents a cornerstone of all humanity. It is something that each and every one of us has always, and will always be dependent upon in one way or another. So the question still remains, how can an entire population that is equally dependent upon a system maintain such vastly opposing ideas for its application in society? It is imperative that we force one another to bridge this divide, and that we force our politicians to do the same. In the interim of moderate solutions, medical companies will continue reaping enormous profits, families will continue seeing higher costs, and the overall health of the country will only continue to worsen.

continued in "Part III: Healthcare vs. Health Insurance"