My Turn: Burn your Obamacare card? Really?
Winston Churchill once said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.” He also said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” These two remarks reflect our national situation with health care.
Health care is not a luxury; it is a necessity. If you don’t have your health, then nothing else really matters. With poor health, you cannot enjoy any of the freedoms we champion as Americans. Freedom to worship, gun ownership, abortion/life, free speech and family become meaningless without health. Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, said that health care should have been one of the rights placed in the Constitution.
Compare that with our national debate over health care. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, offering nothing to replace it. Tea Party conservatives say they are willing to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare. This effort is doomed to failure not only because of the Democratic control of the Senate and White House, but because our health care system is so bad that it makes Obamacare look like a good alternative.
The attack on the ACA is foolishly misplaced. Detractors are fabricating malicious fairy tales in an effort to scare people against it. A good example is the campaign launched by the conservative group, FreedomWorks, to “burn your ObamaCare card.” The purpose of the campaign is to encourage Americans, especially those in the 20 to 40 age group, to reject insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This would defund the ACA via the private insurance exchanges.
Obamacare cards are a fraud. There are no such legal entities. The FreedomWorks group is actually issuing Obamacare cards for the symbolic purpose of burning them.
The fairy tale approach against the ACA is shortsighted and dangerous. It is designed to take our eyes away from the true problem of a bloated health care system that doesn’t cover one-sixth of our population, inadequately covers half the population that does have private insurance, poorly addresses preventive care and worst of all, we can’t afford it. The problem isn’t Obamavare; it’s our health care system in general.
Detractors shouldn’t have to spin fairy tales to find fault with the ACA. There are plenty of quirks and loopholes that need to be addressed. But that would mean refining the ACA, which doesn’t sit well with detractors either for partisan reasons or for financial reasons.
Here in New Hampshire, only Anthem has agreed to work the insurance exchanges under the ACA. This monopoly has enabled it to dictate health care on its terms, excluding some hospitals such as Concord Hospital, Frisbie Memorial and Portsmouth Regional from its network. Anthem’s public explanation cites a 30 percent reduction in insurance premiums, but its recent history with Exeter Hospital suggests that its true goal is to leverage ACA access with hospital contract negotiations.
To function, the ACA relies on private businesses, and that is where it is flawed. The purpose of government and the ACA is to decrease the rise in health care costs and to improve health care access, which often conflicts with the goal of businesses to maximize profits. If we really want to improve the health of our citizens, our greatest asset according to Churchill, then we need to stop dickering about ObamaCare, do the right thing and fix our failing health care system.
(Dr. James Fieseher is a family physician in Portsmouth.)