The Progressive Case Against “Obamacare”

Ok, ok… settle down… settle down… Extinguish those torches, give me the matches and put those pitchforks back where you found them.  Allow me time to explain myself and then, if you don’t agree, you can set me on fire.

Nobody likes The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.  Nobody.  Not just conservatives and teabaggers, mind you; nobody likes it.  We’re all progressives here.  Let’s be honest with one another, folks.  Let’s lay our cards on the table.  American’s freakin’ hate Obamacare.  56% of them want it repealed.  Why?  Well, because the Obama administration made a complete pig’s breakfast of the marketing.  They couldn’t sell fire to cavemen, ice to Bedouin, or gasoline to Hummer owners.

That doesn’t mean that the law doesn’t have some objective merits, but, in the end, it’s a over-complex hodge-podge of rules, regulations, mandates and give-aways to the private insurance parasites that it needs to die on the steps of the Supreme Court Building.  I know this sucks.  I know it will be a blow to all our egos, well, those of us who thought Obama would bring real change to the White House instead of the Caspar Milquetoast approach his administration has taken to governing the nation.  But the ACA is a debacle and I hope that SCOTUS shoots it down.

Journalist Lindorff hates it too.

The act, pushed through a Democratic Congress by President Obama in 2010, is a disaster, a cobbled-together set of measures that was fatally corrupted by the insurance lobby and other parts of the nation’s medical-industrial complex, which leaves  millions uninsured, continues to tether workers to their employers like indentured servants, and undermines the Medicare program, which should be the cornerstone of a real health reform.

It’s long-past time to disintermediate the private insurance industry, what Lindorff calls the “real Vampire Squid.” Only a single-payer system paid for with a progressive tax extension to the current Medicare tax will deliver on Obama’s promise to insure as many people for the lowest cost.  As other industrialized nations have discovered over the years, single-payer is the best and only way to control costs and ensure that every citizen has access to affordable, quality healthcare.

The reality, which both the political leadership and the corporate media have studiously avoided discussing, is that if the US were to shift to a system in which every person was covered by a well-funded Medicare program such as is currently available to every citizen over the age of 65, the total cost of healthcare for the nation — currently about $2.9 trillion per year — would be massively reduced, as would the cost of health care for nearly all individuals, with the exception of those politicians and wealthy executives, and perhaps a small group of workers in highly unionized professions, who have their entire family insurance coverage paid for by the taxpayer or by their companies.

If this means that we get 4 years of R-money ™ and the country slips back into recession, then that’s the sacrifice we’ll need to make to get a decent, affordable healthcare system.  So I hope that SCOTUS can find the courage to obliterate Obamacare and force us back into a corner where the only viable option becomes the single-payer system we so desperately need.


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12 thoughts on “The Progressive Case Against “Obamacare”

  1. Think about this for a moment, though. A vast and lucrative industry, employing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, is supposed to just go away?

    How does that work, exactly?

    1. Industries come and go all the time. Think buggy whips and DC electric power (thank you Thomas Edison!). American manufacturing has declined over the years and become more specialized. So I don’t expect health insurance to “go away.” I expect it will morph into more value-added healthcare services. But as a basic health insurance system? Yes, it can just “go away.”

  2. The insurance industry has been the backbone of commerce among nations since monarchs performed this service millenniums ago. Modern commerce has provided an opportunity for all citizens to take on this service. The problem is the same with all “too big to fail” corporations: competition. If there could be a way to control insurance trusts, this industry would be a way to control accelerating costs and fraud in healthcare. They would be the first to promote “best practices” to avoid law suits, and keep the government bureaucratic involvement to a minimum.

    1. Noble words, except that they don’t work in healthcare as most modern industrialized nations have come to understand. The challenge in healthcare is asymmetric information flows. This challenge was articulated back in 1963 by economist Kenneth J. Arrow in his paper UNCERTAINTY ECONOMICS AND THE WELFARE OF MEDICAL CARE. He wrote,

      This paper is an exploratory and tentative study of the specific differentia of medical care as the object of normative economics. It is contended here, on the basis of comparison of obvious characteristics of the medical-care industry with the norms of welfare economics, that the special economic problems of medical care can be explained as adaptations to the existence of uncertainty in the incidence of disease and in the efficacy of treatment.

  3. I think team Obama knew this “compel everyone to buy a product” angle didn’t have much of a chance at taking flight. I think they’ll propose something else after it is shot down.

  4. CNN recently aired a special with Fareed Zakaria regarding health care in the United States vs. other countries. I highly recommend it.

    1. Zakaria has a blog post about the show where he wrote,

      A general insurance system can only work if everyone is insured. That’s what the Swiss and Taiwanese found out. Otherwise, only the people who are sick will want to buy insurance and the insurance companies will spend most of their time and effort trying to kick sick people out of the system and denying coverage to those who might get sick.

      That’s why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate, requiring that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance.

  5. Phil, thanks for posting this. While the Affordable Care Act does some good things (eliminating refusal to cover based on pre-existing conditions, for instance), there’s more bad than good, in my opinion.

  6. There’s an OpEd in The New York Times this morning on exactly this topic. The author, Michael Shear outlines three courses of action for Progressives and Democrats should the SCOTUS overturn the law.

    SALVAGE: If the court overturns the individual mandate part, figure out how to salvage what’s left.
    EXPAND: If large parts are ruled unconstitutional, expand Medicare to cover more people but stop short of a true single payer system.
    SINGLE PAYER: Trash the whole thing and build a new system that expands Medicare to cover all Americans.

    I’m in the third camp.

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