Let’s Get the ‘Lesson of Obamacare’ Right

Bad website, sure, bad law, probably — but what is the lesson of Obamacare we need to learn?

Obamacare is an easy target of criticism right now, from the left and the right. However, we must recognize that the lesson of all this is not that Obamacare is a failure of liberalism, but of neo-liberalism.

lesson of obamacare, website
The ACA insurance exchange website, healthcare.gov.

This is going to shock a lot of people, but it’s the spot-on truth: The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is a center-right law.

What, the corporate media didn’t tell you? It is modeled directly on Republican then-Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney’s law. Which, in turn, was originally the brainchild of the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation. It is a conservative law, one even health insurance companies backed. I mean, hello, what does that tell you?

Republican health care lawyer Tom Scully recently told a gathering of investors at the Potomac Research Group that Obamacare “is not a government takeover of medicine. It’s the privatization of health care.” In fact, Obamacare, he said, was largely based on past Republican initiatives. “If you took George H. W. Bush’s health plan and removed the label, you’d think it was Obamacare.”

According to the New York Times, “Scully then segued to his main point, one he has been making in similarly handsome dining rooms across the country: No matter what investors thought about Obamacare politically – and surely many there did not think much of it – the law was going to make some people very rich.”

Sure, Republicans in Congress have made hay casting it as a liberal law, since Barrack Obama took up the mantle. That’s easy to do, it’s happening under a Democratic administration, after all. But the president, despite the crazy tea party rants calling him “socialist,” is center-right economically. And so is this law.

So, the failures of the ACA are not “liberal” failures, they are conservative – at least, what passes for conservative today. The failures have to do with the law’s attempt to placate corporate interests over the interests of the public, plain and simple.

A center way was possible early on, the so-called “public option.” Oh, but that was way too easy to shoot down! It had “public” in the title! What are we, “socialists”?!

But we have never come closer to the real liberal, left wing solution — single payer — than Medicare, which, by the way, is extremely efficient and the public loves it. In fact, “single payer” is so common sense, it doesn’t even need to be capitalized! (Pun intended.)

So the real lesson of Obamacare is this: we have tried all the different shades of right-wing “health care” in this country. They have all, no surprise, worked very well for the corporate health care insurance industry — as they continue to rake in record profits — but not so well for the average citizen.

What we haven’t tried is anything remotely liberal or progressive. How about we finally give that a chance?

Yup, it’s time. Let’s at least give a shot to the basic system every other democracy in the world uses. Just maybe it’s finally time we pulled our heads out of the sand and tried what the rest of the world proves works.

Sure, people are going to quibble about the problems each of those country’s systems have. Right, like the private system we have doesn’t have bigger problems? There are always going to be problems with huge programs like health care, but anything that big is always going to require tinkering, improving and updating.

It’s time to drop the self-destructive attitude that says, “just because it’s the way we’ve always done it, it’s the best way.” The world (and even our own experience with Medicare) has shown us that the humane, caring and much more efficient way is single payer. It is not to let private interests parlay an urgent human need into huge profits for a few.

[This chart (from 2011) shows the US at 33rd in percentage of population with health care, just under Mexico and Estonia. We’re dead last on the list in the percentage of population covered by government health insurance: we’re at 31.8%, the next highest is 86.7%, the rest are at 92% or above.]

James Israel
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