WONG: Fix Obamacare by instituting a public option

Our government should ensure universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world

The United States’ healthcare system is, from a global perspective, laughable; the United States spends more on health care than Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Despite such spending, the United States holds the dubious distinctions of having the worst life expectancy, highest infant mortality rate, the lowest insured rate and the greatest proportion of obese citizens when compared to these other twelve nations. The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” was signed into effect on March 23, 2010, in an attempt to solve some of the issues with the U.S. healthcare system. The act is one of the largest overhauls of the United States healthcare system in recent memory, with its passage being one of the most hotly contested issues in Congress and throughout the United States.

The passing of the ACA has undoubtedly had some positive effects; the U.S. uninsured rate is at a historical low, at 11 percent by the second quarter of 2016, and those making less than $36,000 annually have had the greatest decline in the uninsured rate — from 30.7 percent in late 2013 to 20.0 percent today. However, the ACA is not without critical flaws; the act, which was touted for “reforms that have improved access, affordability, and quality in healthcare for Americans,” has arguably done the opposite. Rather than establishing a single-payer healthcare system which has been tested and proven to work, the ACA has established an eccentric “marketplace” through which enrollees may purchase insurance from private providers

Average healthcare costs are estimated to rise on average by 25 percent for next year. Twenty percent of consumers will have access to only one insurer by next year, and 29 percent of Americans believe that the ACA has hurt their family, with only 18 percent stating a positive effect and 51 percent expressing no effect. It should be noted, however, that only 26 percent of Americans know that the ACA has resulted in record-high insurance rates, indicating a general lack of understanding of what the ACA has accomplished. Indeed, the failures of the ACA have been exacerbated with major insurers, such as Aetna, United Healthcare and Humana pulling out of “most of the healthcare exchanges it had entered in 2014,” as reported by Gallup. Aetna (which is also a healthcare provider at the University) proved defiant toward the Obama administration in September this year, warning the Department of Justice that its lawsuit towards a proposed Aetna-Humana merger would result in Aetna scaling back its current operations in Obamacare. The statistics make it clear: the Affordable Care Act, as it currently stands, is unsustainable, and must be heavily reformed to accomplish the ACA’s original goal of quality, affordable healthcare.

Both presidential candidates have strikingly different views towards the ACA; while Hillary Clinton is in support of procedures which would block or modify so-called “unreasonable rate increases” by health insurers, Donald Trump would (in his words) “repeal it, replace it, get something great!” Neither of these methods, however, would be conducive in preventing continually rising costs of a system increasingly seen as broken by Americans. Interestingly enough, neither candidate has publicly suggested the alternate option of publicly-funded healthcare, a system which has already been tested and proven incredibly successful in other nations. The primary distinction of the United States from other high-income nations is the lack of a publicly financed universal health system — a system which the ACA failed to establish.

The United States has mastered a process of inefficiency with its current healthcare system, consistently paying higher and higher prices for results which pale in comparison in other well-developed nations. Regardless of the merits and problems with the ACA, one thing is clear; changes must be made to the United States’ current, unsustainable healthcare system. Such reforms could be made via increasing federal financial assistance for enrollees and implementing drug cost-control procedures. Alternatively, a fundamentally flawed (when compared to the healthcare systems of every other developed nation) system could be overhauled entirely by implementing a single-payer healthcare system, as every other developed nation has done so far. Regardless of the method, one point remains clear: the United States may possess incredibly skilled healthcare workers. The expertise of such workers, however, is of little use if no American can afford to pay said professionals for their abilities.

William Wong is a Viewpoint writer.

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