Commentary: 'Obamacare' will be good for the U.S.

The Rock Hill HeraldJuly 2, 2012 

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina is not happy about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare."

Soon after the ruling was announced, Wilson spit out an email caterwauling about the “government health care takeover bill.” He recalls how “the president and his liberal allies shoved an extremely unpopular 2,000-page bill through both chambers of Congress.” He rails that “we should have health care based on a doctor-patient relationship rather than a politician-patient mandate.”

You remember Wilson. During a 2009 joint session of Congress where President Barack Obama was outlining his health care plan, Wilson pointed at the president and shouted, “You lie!”

Well, in this case, Wilson is doing the, uh, dissembling.

The Affordable Care Act is not a government takeover of health care. It was expressly designed so that Americans would buy insurance from private insurers unless they are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Those with existing coverage they like can keep those policies. Those who haven’t been able to afford insurance will be able to purchase coverage through a pool – which consists of a group of private insurance companies.

Nothing in the law does anything to jeopardize the doctor-patient relationship. Government won’t interfere in that relationship any more than insurance companies do now. Many insurers, by the way, already are telling us which doctors we can see and refusing to cover certain drugs and procedures, even if they are prescribed by our physicians.

And what’s this about “shoving” the bill through Congress? The bill passed in the Senate by a margin of 60-39 and in the House by 219-212. Last I heard, that’s called democracy.

Obamacare is likely to be a boon for private insurers. While the court said the federal government doesn’t have the constitutional authority to enforce the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, the government can tax – or fine – those who don’t buy insurance, which will help create millions of new customers for the insurance companies.

The law contains incentives for small businesses to provide insurance coverage for their employees. That also will mean more customers for the insurance companies.

Ultimately, the Affordable Care Act will make health care delivery more effective and less expensive, which also will increase the number of people buying insurance. The emergency room no longer will serve as a primary care facility for uninsured Americans, which we all now pay for.

Best of all, tens of millions of Americans who, for a variety of reasons, can’t get insurance will have access to affordable coverage by 2014 at the latest.

Insurers no longer will be able to turn away people with pre-existing conditions. They won’t be able to revoke polices when people get sick. They won’t be able to put a cap on expenses, which now can leave policy holders facing financial ruin. And young people will be allowed to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.

The United States has the costliest health care system in the world. Yet we lag behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care to our citizens. A consumer-driven system just doesn’t work to control costs or provide even minimal care for all Americans.

By contrast, Switzerland’s program, which operates much like Obamacare, is ranked as one of the best health care systems in the world. And that’s the essential point: We don’t need to look far to find examples – already up and running – of a better way to deliver health care.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act also should keep in mind that the model for the mandate they condemn now was dreamed up in a conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, more than 20 years ago and has been enthusiastically supported by Republican lawmakers over the years. One wonders what the critics would be saying if, instead of being passed as part of Obamacare, the mandate had been part of a successful Republican program pushed by a Republican officeholder.

Somebody, for example, like Mitt Romney. Hey, wait a minute ...

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