Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Can Obama Afford Obamacare?

530 billion dollars, 26 states, 9 judges, 1 upcoming presidential election: With the recent controversy over the Obamacare medical aid plan, it is looking less and less likely that Obama will truly be able to afford the Affordable Care Act.

In principle
And maybe in practice as well, it’s feasible that Obama’s healthcare plan could work. As President Obama signed the bill on March 23, 2010, he looked to implement a system of health care in the United States that would end the practice of private insurers and private providers and enact a nationwide mandate on obtaining healthcare that would be covered by the government. In some ways, this isn’t so bad. In this current system, neither side is benefited: the poor don’t buy the expensive premiums and so when a problem arises they go to the emergency room, their costs are put on the rich, making their care so expensive that many of them don’t buy it either. So the government pays. A socialized healthcare program would mean the government would be paying even more than they do now (an estimated 530 billion dollars added to the U.S. debt over the following ten years), but isn’t quality service and the good health of Americans everywhere worth that? Many have argued that neither of these golden ideals will be achieved anyway. Socializing health care means that high-paying jobs like doctors and surgeons will now be on standard government pay. In other words: a crappy salary. Those who are motivated and intelligent will no longer be attracted to these positions and those who are in them will have no motivation to provide outstanding care for their patients. But there is precedent: in “Health Care is for Everyone”, Fareed Zakaria analyzes other countries’ social health care changes and the results are surprising. He cites specifically, that both Switzerland and Taiwan, who have switched to a government policy, have seen increases in quality and decreases in cost. Switzerland spends only 11% of its GDP on health care while Taiwan a mere 7%. All of this is in contrast to the U.S.’ 17% of its total GDP without socialized medicine. Ultimately, the market system seems too infrequently used and therefore too expensive for it to benefit anyone. Socialized healthcare seems to provide a solution to decrease costs and increase availability in a relatively short period of time.

In practice
Maybe it’s the huge price tag attached, maybe it’s Obama’s past failures to deliver much on other huge projects (think 700 billion dollar stimulus plan…anyone? Anyone?), but its probably the Constitution. Obama’s plan was running by relatively smoothly before that issue came up. True, it was hastily thrown together and had to be revised substantially after it was passed, true, Obama is not the greatest president when it comes to the economy, but despite the few protests, the advantages that it seemed to lay out (see first paragraph), looked enticing. However, as soon as the controversies stemmed over its legality under the Constitution, the tides receded and Obama was left stranded with the nation accusing him of trying to undermine its principle values. Now, technically, Obamacare could be considered constitutional. The government can control interstate markets to an extent, and this medical system would be an interstate market. However, the unprecedented factor is that no one has ever been forced to participate in an interstate market. Even socialized education systems allow people to attend private schools or be home schooled if that is their preference. No such lax boundaries on healthcare, it is a mandatory participation with heave fines if one does not comply. While healthcare is not a huge factor in restricting personal freedom, it does lead to the question: what else can the government force everyone to do?

The Supreme Court
The popular vote may have turned against Obama, but he still had a chance to rescue it. These seemed to be, possibly, the knockout punch that he needed: prove that he respected the Constitution, uphold his bill, and show that he could handle revolutionary change within the United States. It was his chance to shine. But he didn’t. Entering the court setting, the lawyers defending Obama’s case were woefully unprepared—ridiculously so. Unable to quote exact facts and different assets of the law, they seemed overconfident in the Supreme Court’s favoring the bill, and were dominated within that context. In poor recovery from this solid blow to his law, Obama protested the way the Court seemed to be leaning: “We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue like health care…at least since Lochner”, essentially sternly berating the Supreme Court for doing its job in vetting the bills that are being passed by the Legislative Branch. More tension between President Obama and the Supreme Court make it more and more likely that they will reject the bill or severely impair it by striking out many sections. On another front, the House of Representatives and Senate are working to dismantle the bill as well, trying to get rid of it “piece by piece”, provided they cannot eliminate it completely.
Obama has had several disputes with the Supreme Court,
making it unlikely that the Act will pass in full form.

Just in time for this humiliating series of events, Romney emerges as proposed victor as Rick Santorom drops out of the primaries. There is never a time more crucial for President Obama to emerge as a confident opponent, but as laws crumble to dust in his fingers and the highest judicial power in the States turns against him, he has never seemed more vulnerable. The Affordable Care Act still looks profitable for the United States, and it could still be edited, revised and passed. In many ways it is likely that it will remain for many years to come, but as for President Obama, I can’t say the same.

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