Earlier this month, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was pulled out of Congress by Paul Ryan and President Trump to prevent the humiliation of a failed vote. Legislators on both sides of the political spectrum were opposed to it. The left found it to be appalling, saying that it would leave millions uncovered and at risk of dying, while many on the right felt that it wasn’t Draconian enough, including Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas, who stated that it didn’t reduce Medicaid enough and still reeked of “big government.” Regardless of the arguments, the bill is dead for the time being, leaving the Affordable Care Act in place.
However, the Affordable Care Act, even though it is infinitely better than what health care would become under the AHCA and was a step in the right direction, is still not perfect. There are still millions of uninsured Americans, and even those who are insured often have difficulty navigating care networks or handling increasingly expensive premiums and deductibles. Many of these issues can be resolved through a system found in nearly every other major democracy in the world: universal health care.
In 2014, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a report stating that only two of its member states lacked universal health care: the United States and Mexico. However, in 2004 Mexico announced that it would be taking steps to achieving healthcare as a right for its citizens, and now, nearly 90 percent of its population is covered under public health programs. Countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Cuba and Costa Rica all guarantee health care as a right to its citizens; however, the United States does not. The United States still largely depends on private corporations to provide health care for the majority of its citizens, which is wholly unacceptable for the nation with the world’s largest economy.
That being said, we should not be blind to the reasons why American legislators have been so slow to denounce privatized health care and move toward a single-payer health care system. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that in 2016, Blue Cross/Blue Shield alone spent $13,846,109 lobbying to Congress, and the insurance industry as a whole spent a total of $146,662,996 lobbying. This is a symptom of the larger issue of oligarchic influence in politics that is so complex that it deserves its own article, so for the time being, move on.
America should not be the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee health care as a right to its citizens, especially given that it has the means to fund a single-payer health care system. Even if party elites on both sides resist increasing taxation on corporations and the bourgeois, there are still other areas where funding can be reallocated to properly fund a universal health care system, for example, the $600 billion military budget. However, an increase in taxation on those who have the means to contribute but often find loopholes to avoid paying taxes is probably the best way to fund a single-payer health care system. Taxation isn’t theft. Taxation is a way of redistributing excess wealth to ensure that those at the top can be checked and those at the bottom can be assisted.
Health care is a basic human right. People should not have to refuse medical treatment because the ambulance ride alone is unaffordable to them. People should not have to take out a second mortgage on their homes or enter into debt because of a terminal illness that they have no control over, and it is completely unacceptable that the largest economy in the world still has citizens who have to crowdfund in order to pay off treatment for illness because a group of wealthy politicians who are guaranteed health care of their own by the government refuse to acknowledge that they too deserve that right.