Ming Fearon and Jackie Wang, Week 9: News of the Week, “House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama”

New York Times link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/health/policy/22health.html?hp

It’s no secret that the American healthcare system is broken. Unlike most other industrialized countries, healthcare is privatized, making it unaffordable for millions of Americans. When President Obama was running for office, the main issue on his agenda was to implement a universal health care policy. He had an idea to transform the American healthcare system into one more like that of the European Union. This new plan would require almost every American to have to pay for some sort of health insurance, but the costs would be a lot lower for each individual than they are now for those who have healthcare that is not covered by their employers. For instance, Ming’s parents are both dentists, and therefore self-employed: not only do they have to pay for their own healthcare, which costs literally thousands of dollars a month, but they also have to make sure that their employees’ healthcare is subsidized as well. As well as being costly, this system is inefficient. Regardless of having this costly insurance, the co-payments for things as simple as an annual doctor’s check-up are still very high, and some important procedures, such as surgery, could be considered optional or even unnecessary and would therefore not be covered by insurers.
Obama is not the first high-profile politician to try and tackle universal health care. In 1993, President Clinton attempted to implement a similar universal health care plan, and did so with the help of his wife, the current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. Needless to say, it did not work, because in 1994, the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in a long time. Politically, Republicans (and those with libertarian values) tend to oppose the idea of universal health care. Therefore, when Obama’s campaign circled around this idea, many people compared it to the Clintons’ idea and insinuated that he would meet the same failure. President Obama has been in office since January 2009 and has since then faced a lot of criticism for not making good on a lot of the promises he made during his campaign, with health care being the main issue. If this bill is successfully made into law, his political clout will skyrocket to unheard of proportions. This is demonstrated by politicians such as Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina stating, “This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century.”
Congress passed the bill in a vote of 219 to 212. Much of the opposition was Republican, but thirty-four Democrats also voted against it. Those for it believe that the high cost of privatized health care alienates millions of Americans who simply cannot afford to pay for both health care and the general cost of living. As a result, those for it have taken to saying that health care is not a privilege, but rather a right. The opposed believe that it is not democratic to mandate that each person must have healthcare, and that they should have the right to choose. They complain about the estimated $938 billion cost adding 16 million people to Medicaid (a federal medical assistance program that helps low-income people who cannot afford private healthcare) and subsidizing private low- and middle-income families. However, the bill will provide coverage to approximately 32 million more people, and it will be very beneficial to people who fall into our age category, as parents will be able to extend their health care benefits to their children until the age of 26 (with the previous age generally being limited to 23 at the very most). It will also disallow health care providers from dropping people on the (very paradox) basis that they fall ill. It will also allow small businesses, such as those of Ming’s parents, to get tax credits to help their employees to get insurance. In our opinion, the possibility of universal health care finally being standardized is extremely exciting, particularly because we are entering the age group where we would no longer be covered by our parents’ insurance and will have to think of getting coverage of our own. Like the congress members who were pushing for the bill to be passed, we also believe that health care is a right and not a privilege.

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