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Kadner: Obamacare among the walking dead

People cheer in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the court issued a ruling in support of the financing of the Affordable Care Act, in June, 2015.

Democrats and Republicans now seem to agree that Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, is failing. In truth it has had a zombie-like quality since its inception, a walking dead sort of creation designed to self destruct.

No informed person can really be surprised by what has occurred because Obamacare was passed with no funding mechanism.

There’s no mystery about how this sort of universal health insurance plan could have been successfully implemented since it has been done in every western industrialized nation outside the United States.

OPINION

In western Europe, medical care is considered a human right. Some people call that socialism, others say it’s common sense. Without access to quality medical care people get sick, they spread disease to otherwise healthy people, they can’t work, they amass staggering personal debt, they can’t support their families and then they die.

Critics of Obamacare claim the old system worked fine and no improvement was needed.

Baloney. Millions of Americans had no health insurance under the old system because their employers refused to pay for it. Some of those employers were simply greedy, money-grubbing folks who saw a way of increasing their profits as the job market got tight. Other employers squeezed by smaller profit margins and skyrocketing insurance premiums had to eliminate health insurance benefits to stay in business.

In addition, many employers continued to provide health insurance to their employees but employee deductibles, co-pays and premium payments increased. As wages stagnated, workers saw their paychecks eaten up by increasing health insurance costs.

And to top it all off, health insurance companies decided not to insure people who had pre-existing conditions. In other words, if you were healthy and unlikely to get sick, the insurance companies were happy to accept your premium payments. If you were a bad risk, might cost the insurance companies money, you could lose your insurance coverage, especially if you changed jobs.

That was the situation in 2008 when Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama promised universal health care if elected and defeated Republican John McCain.

But President Obama quickly said he would not endorse single-payer national health insurance, the sort of thing they have in most other industrialized nations, including Canada and England. Republicans and most Democrats didn’t want to tax people to pay for national health insurance, which is how we finance Medicare.

So the Obama administration created a Frankenstein monster of sorts, using the fetid pieces of rotten health care ideas, stitching them together with the fabric of mandatory health insurance for all, and proclaiming the thing alive (knowing it was going to have a zombie-like existence and die in a few years due to a funding shortfall).

The hope, the fantasy, was that at this point in the process the value of universal health insurance would seem clear, the public would demand single-payer health care like the rest of the industrialized world, and political disagreements would disappear.

That hasn’t happened because most people still don’t understand how the Affordable Care Act works or why it failed to work. Maybe the Republicans were right all along and the plan was unworkable, people are apt to conclude.

It certainly is unworkable if billions of dollars that could be used to finance national health care are simply eaten up by the private health insurance system. This is money that adds nothing to improve medical treatment. It doesn’t help patients get better, doesn’t make your doctors any wiser and doesn’t improve hospital care.

It fattens the wallets of insurance executives and investors.

Even if there were a political will to tax Americans to support some form of universal health care, you couldn’t tax them enough so long as those billions of dollars from companies and their employees were still going into the private system.

No matter who wins the next election, we’re going to end up with some half-baked insurance scheme that is going to have serious long-term financial problems and fail to provide adequate insurance coverage at reasonable cost to consumers.

As with so much that is wrong with America, instead of solving a significant problem, we continue to fight with each other, content so long as the other guy doesn’t win. In the case of health care, we’ve invented a square wheel and proudly claim the rest of the world is nutty for using one that’s round.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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