Americans of all hues expressed surprise when Barack Obama was elected four years ago (and again last year), with many candidly remarking that they never thought they would live to see the day when the United States would be led by a President of African descent.
As the Obama administration’s policy priorities took shape, many thought it equally unlikely that there would be significant healthcare reform during their lifetimes. Yet the first black US President would once again deliver the unexpected.
When President Obama finally spearheaded the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last summer — after the constitutionality of the law was upheld by the Supreme Court — his team successfully overcame strident partisan resistance from conservatives who had mounted a legal challenge to it. The Obama administration also prevailed against widespread skepticism, not only from the law’s detractors, but also from its supporters. For, very few were confident that a major transformation in American social welfare policy was possible given the failures of several prior presidents in this arena over the last century including, most recently, Bill Clinton, whose frustrated effort at healthcare reform was still fresh in public memory.
Undoubtedly, the new health policy offers crucial and tangible benefits. As the law’s full name makes clear, one of its fundamental accomplishments will be to protect patients from mistreatment by health insurance companies. For example, so-called “Obamacare” guards against arbitrary loss or denial of insurance coverage. The law also mandates that insurance companies use the largest portion of the money they earn toward actual medical benefits for patients, rather than corporate profit. And, thankfully, it is no longer lawful for that the fact of being a woman be deemed an inherent “medical condition” that justifies the imposition of higher fees than what a man pays.
As Obamacare is rolled out, improved access to medical services will be accomplished through a public-private regime that, on the one hand, extends federal healthcare support for the poor and the elderly and, on the other, expands for-profit insurance coverage for some. As a result, the numbers of underinsured and uninsured people in the US is expected to shrink from its current level of 50 million persons to about 20 million. There will be a salient reduction in human need and suffering.
But the arms of Obama’s care wrap around too few… MORE