Health Reform is Here to Stay

It has been 17 days since the American federal government was shut down by the political posturing of a small, deluded faction of the Republican Party. Thankfully, just when we were on the verge of hitting the debt ceiling and unleashing a veritable economic disaster, they came to their senses and reached an agreement with Democrats and sane Republicans, re-opening the government and raising the debt ceiling. Though I’ve railed against the government many times before and I am relieved it’s over (for now, at least), there’s something about the past two weeks that’s really touched a nerve. And maybe that’s because beyond the havoc wreaked upon the economy, the whole fiasco was concocted to preserve the inequality of the American health care system: to prevent the implementation of a law extending health insurance to millions of Americans.

Certain Republicans would have us think that they are protecting the American people from the predestined abuses and economic calamities of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that if we only halted the implementation of the dreaded “Obamacare” they would come up with a better solution. That’s nonsense. As it stands now, it would be naive to think that a party hijacked by deficit hawks could come up with a proposal for the American health system suggesting anything other than to slash the critical safety nets and benefits that do exist for marginalized and underrepresented members of our society—women included.

That said, I will concede that the reform has serious limitations. In fact, I would argue that the most important achievement of the reform is to throw millions of people into the most wasteful, inefficient health system in the world! But it’s a start. And for those who don’t have the money to pay for insurance or doctor’s fees, for those living under the uncertainty of what will happen to them when their uncontrolled chronic health condition becomes a health emergency, this start makes all the difference.

Besides, waiting any longer to fix the broken “system” of health insurance while millions of Americans are left out in the cold would be unjust and barbaric, ignoring the plight of those who most need the reform. In any case, there’s no reason to believe that structural health reform more transformative than the ACA could pass in the near future anyway, so it’s time to stop complaining and time to figure out how to make this reform work, to discuss ways to build upon its strengths.

The United States is currently among the only industrialized countries in the world without some sort of system providing universal health coverage, so it’s about time the government started doing something about it. But as the dust from the shutdown and debt ceiling showdown settles down and the debate over healthcare rages on, these Republicans will continue peddling the idea that the reform has brought disastrous consequences for the economy, all the while pointing to a tepid economic recovery as evidence. Let’s not forget that by sabotaging the government and the economy, their predicted economic woes have become a self-fulfilling prophecy—the product not of the reform, but of their own irresponsible politics.