Do we even know what healthcare is? Seriously, there are people engaged in very passionate debates and protests who are saying one thing and thinking another. Let’s be clear here, healthcare and health insurance are two very different things yet they are often referred to interchangeably.
For sake of clarity, healthcare is just that, care of one’s health. It’s the ability to go to a doctor or hospital and be treated for injuries and illness. Health insurance is a method for paying for your healthcare.
Not long ago there was a protest held in Houston where people were upset about the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). They kept demanding their “right” to healthcare. They angrily blamed Republicans for wanting to take away their healthcare. Trust me, no one is taking away their healthcare. There may be changes to funding for healthcare via health insurance, but you have and will always have the right to take care of yourself and to seek medical treatment.
One of the biggest fallacies in the whole healthcare debate is that Americans have a right to health insurance, and thus increased access to healthcare services. It is not a right. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights does it say the government must provide for the health of individual citizens. That right is inherent with each person, not the government.
When the ACA/Obamacare was passed, it forced everyone to obtain health insurance or pay a hefty fine. It faced a Constitutional challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a split decision, the court ruled that the ACA was legal, not because it is a right but because it is a TAX. Rather than being insurance for all, it is the largest single tax ever levied against the American people. Rather than being affordable, it has driven the cost of healthcare to levels that many people cannot afford.
The Affordable Care Act should have been more accurately named the Health Insurance Tax. Not only has it pushed access to healthcare further out of reach for more people, its unsustainable funding mechanism has pushed the country trillions of dollars deeper into debt. This is why Republicans are so eager to repeal Obamacare. It’s not because they are mean and waging war on women, minorities and the poor as most Democrats would have you believe; it’s because it is a financial drain on families and the economy.
As a direct result of the ACA, Americans are spending a higher percentage of their income, and state and local governments are spending a higher percentage of their budgets to cover medical expenses. It’s a huge detriment to small businesses that must pay skyrocketing costs to provide that “benefit” to their employees. This is neither reasonable nor sustainable.
I am no expert on healthcare policy or systems, but I do know a sinking ship when I see one and Obamacare has Titanic written all over it. There are no lifeboats on this ship – it’s going down and taking the country with it. We need to abandon ship and scuttle this barge before it causes any more harm.
So the question remains, what do we put in its place? Republicans thought they had the answer, but every idea they have floated has been torpedoed. Our elected officials are so caught up in partisan fisticuffs over healthcare that no one is stopping the bleeding. Honestly, if you would create a nonpartisan committee made up not of politicians but of healthcare experts who could come together in a spirit of cooperation and craft a sustainable solution that can meet the major objectives without bankrupting the country, I think we could get this mess behind us and move on.
We need to get past this notion that we are entitled to health insurance – we are not – and look at things from a perspective of reducing costs and regulating the industry to truly make insurance more accessible and affordable. We need to eliminate the mandate that everyone must be insured. Food, clothing and shelter are more vital than healthcare, but you don’t see the government providing that for its citizens; nor should it.
If the government is going to fund any aspect of healthcare, it should be in preventive care. More resources should be committed to keeping people healthy and out of emergency rooms and hospitals and less money spent paying for preventable health problems. If people are not going to take responsibility for their own health, they have no right to expect the government to do it.
We would do better to subsidize gym memberships and exercise programs and to tax Big Sugar and Big Soda to the degree we do tobacco. That income could help pay for the exercise subsidies and also treatment of obesity related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Education is a key component. No one is teaching people what and how they should eat. We learn more about dining from McDonalds than we do from nutritionists. Does anyone see a problem with that? Basic nutrition and core home economics should be a requirement in public education. Basic life skills are no longer being passed down from parent to child because we have new generations of parents who never learned it. Schools don’t teach it. The result is rampant obesity and a growing addiction to fast foods, convenience store snacks and giant sugary drinks.
Learning those lessons is where people can take ownership of their healthcare, reduce costs and live fuller and more productive lives. Take responsibility for yourself and then you don’t have to worry about Uncle Sam having to do it later.