Another merry-go-round

Petty political strategy in the House values spiting our president over insuring millions.

Matthew Hoy

Well, they’re at it again.

On Friday, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted through a bill that would keep the government running only if the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is defunded.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was quick to respond, pledging to strip the bill of its provisions about the ACA before sending it back to the House just in time to avoid a potential government shutdown.

It’s easy to get carried away casting blame on one of the two parties. And it’s easy getting frustrated with a broken political system that has cultivated one of the least effective and least trusted Congresses in history. It’s important to hold such irresponsible leaders accountable for their careless actions.

But this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been held hostage before, riding out political pissing contests while the lives of American people are tossed around haphazardly by politicians who do not act in the best interest of their constituents.

The conversation shouldn’t be about who is to blame anymore. We’ve already been down that road. Instead, we need to have a conversation about why an issue like health care has become so twisted by our political process.

Health is a basic human right. When we allow it to become a privilege, or an expense, we ensure that those among us without the resources to afford it are guaranteed a lower quality of health, simply because they inhabit a lower social stratum.

I do not want this to become a column about statistics. There have been more than enough to demonstrate that the Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance system is unbelievably broken. But it is important to lay out a few key ones.

The U.S. spends the most on health care, whether in relation to its population or economy, according to Mark Pearson, head of Division on Health Policy at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

We devoted 17.6 percent of our GDP to health expenses in 2010 — more than any other country.

After the U.S. comes the Netherlands, which spent 12 percent of its GDP on health care. The OECD found an international average of 9.5 percent of GDP, slightly more than half of what we spend.

There are numerous causes for this, and they require comprehensive reform to remedy. The ACA is an attempt at that remedy, albeit a flawed one. We can certainly do better. My question is why is the illusory fear of socialism enough to create such opposition to a law that brings health care to tens of millions of people?

I don’t buy the financial argument that some critics make. The CBO found that repealing the ACA would add $210 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. And we already spend far more than any other country on our health insurance. If our politicians actually cared about the most financially feasible solution, we would have moved to a more “socialized” system long ago.

This is an ideological conflict masked as a financial one. The narrative of “makers” versus “takers” has allowed a major American political faction to do everything in its power to block tens of millions of people from getting health insurance.

They are, in fact, so determined to go after health care that they are willing to risk a potential government shutdown. If it weren’t so disgraceful, it
might be funny.

It illuminates just how flawed this ideology is: Even prominent Republicans in the Senate oppose this move. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) labeled the move as “the dumbest idea” he has ever heard. And it really is.

These politicians, who claim that their actions are taken in the best interest of the American people, are eager to damage our economy in the name of preventing tens of millions of people from receiving health insurance.

It’s time to abandon this narrative that universal health care is somehow akin to a socialist takeover of American values. It’s time to abandon the idea that there are those of us who are “makers” and those of us who are “takers.” It’s time to realize that a cheaper, more efficient health care system that extends insurance to 32 million people is the right option.

And it’s time to start dismantling a political ideology that is so petty and childish that its parishioners are willing to shut down the government to spite their president.

This is not a question about privilege, entitlement or some strange perversion of fiscal responsibility. This is a legitimate attempt to prevent people who were ineligible for insurance in a profoundly flawed system from getting access to a basic human right.

It’s about people who are too sick for insurance companies to treat their illnesses. It’s about the eight states in which insurance companies were allowed to treat a history of domestic abuse as a
pre-existing condition.

It’s about living up to our responsibility as a nation to help those among us who can’t help themselves.

We need to stop pretending otherwise.