In March of 2010, former President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the U.S. government’s most significant piece of health care legislation since the 1960s. Although its passage was a massive victory for Obama and his constituency, the greater victory was getting Americans to buy into the idea that the government is responsible for health care.
Ever since, even Republicans have been sold, as shown by recent efforts to compose health care legislation of their own. But efforts from either party to play their hand in the issue is completely unwarranted. The government has no business in health care and President Donald Trump’s greatest failure hitherto has been his inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite it being one of his biggest campaign promises.
The Affordable Care Act seeks to maximize health insurance coverage for U.S. citizens through higher taxes and cuts to Medicare. Although it has led to about 20 to 25 million more people being covered, the act is overshadowed by its poor quality of insurance, its heightening of the cost of private insurance and its further inflating of the national deficit. Adding insult to injury, the law punishes those who do not want insurance by hitting them with a hefty fee.
Initially admitted by Obama to be a punishment, he later reneged, saying it was a tax in order for the Supreme Court case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius to go over in his favor. The result not only upheld the worst provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but expanded the definition of a tax and therefore the government’s ability to take money from its citizens arbitrarily.
More problematic than the legislation itself is the philosophy it promotes, which is that health care is a universal right. Somewhere along the lines, people like Sen. Bernie Sanders fail to understand that health care is a product and service like anything else. Nowhere in the constitution are either granted as rights. This is for good reason because commodities do not simply come into existence for our convenience; they are the fruits of labor rewarded by investment in a competitive market. Once this market becomes regulated by the government to allow universal access, quality diminishes immensely because low prices give little incentive for health care providers to offer a product that is better than their competitors.
Just because I need something, that doesn’t mean I have a right to have it. If I fracture my arm, how can it possibly be reasonable to demand a free doctor and free painkillers to fix it? Such logic just isn’t sustainable. The United States is composed of over 325 million people, all entirely different from one another insofar as health. Fortunately, the vast majority are covered with health insurance that they purchase themselves or their employers provide for them. But for the 20 to 25 million Americans covered under the Affordable Care Act, how can they expect to be guaranteed health care that is of great quality, affordability and universality? They cannot, and shame on those who perpetuate such an empty promise.
But what about Medicare for all and a single-payer system? In the context of essential health care, all that single-payer means is that the government will be the sole entity responsible for providing it, rather than a multipayer system in which employers and insurance companies provide coverage as well. Such a program would be even more disastrous than the Affordable Care Act. In a single-payer plan proposed by Sanders, he states that funding will be derived from a 2.2 percent increase in taxes on all Americans and a 6.2 percent increase in taxes on employers. But in a study done by Emory University, such increases would still fall short of about $13.5 trillion in the first decade alone. Moral of the story? The government needs to stay out of health care. Advice for Trump? Repeal the Affordable Care Act, don’t replace it and don’t look back.
Brian Deinstadt is a senior double-majoring in political science and English.