In the history of human civilization, the United States of America during the last 150 years, may be the most innovative in history. We were the first in flight. The first to manufacture automobiles on an assembly line. We pioneered television, and today our technology companies lead the globe.
Yet, despite all of this remarkable know-how, we have not figured out how to provide our citizens with a world-class healthcare system.
In a study last year by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (founded by a the commerce secretary of Richard Nixon), the United States spends more than twice the average amount of money per capita on healthcare than the rest of the developed world.
At the same time, our healthcare outcomes lag far behind nearly all of Europe, South Korea, Australia, Japan and Chile. We are more likely to die younger than citizens of nearly every other developed country.
Why is it that healthcare that works best for the people in this country is so elusive?
The current law of the land, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, tried to address the issue with a substantially imperfect solution. While it did not deliver on lowering costs or improving outcomes, it did get healthcare to more people. In January this year, the Department of Health and Human Services said approximate 20 million people were insured because of Obamacare.
Despite that outcome, continued rising costs and tax penalties for those who declined to purchase insurance kept the act unpopular, with approval hovering around 40 percent for the duration of Obama’s presidency. Until this year when, faced with a repeal or an even less popular Republican plan, Obamacare’s popularity topped 55 percent.
Apparently, you don’t know what you have until it’s almost gone.
During the early summer months, Republican legislators proposed a host of changes to current law, from repealing the mandates, to cutting Medicare, to imposing bizarre waiting period penalties for people seeking to purchase insurance if they were without. With every proposal, the public’s trust declined with early July polls showing popular approval for Senate Republican efforts at around 12 percent.
While healthcare is clearly a complicated issue, as the President discovered in February, it shouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of the U. S. Congress, which has the best research available to it and the actual power to effect serious change. Yet a real solution seems not only improbable but impossible. The only thing clear in recent healthcare legislative fights is that lawmakers seem more concerned with whose name is on the bill, not what it ultimately accomplishes.
It’s long past time for Congress to take the lead on healthcare and address real policy issues, not politics. It shouldn’t be that hard.