(Cartoon image is by Chan Lowe in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.)
The Republicans in the Senate have put off voting on their health care reform bill (tax cut bill?) because the CBO estimate showed it to be a very bad bill. It would cost at least 22 million Americans their health insurance by 2026 (and even more in years after 2026). And it's only premium cost saving measure was to allow insurance companies to sell policies that covered far less and had much higher deductibles.
It was not reform, because reform should help more Americans to afford health care -- not less. The Republican bill needs to be defeated. But even if it is defeated, it should not be a reason to celebrate. That's because Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) does need some reforms.
Don't get me wrong. Obamacare was a big improvement over the terrible health care situation that existed before it was passed. It did a lot of good -- covering about 20 million more with health insurance, stopping insurance companies from denying insurance (or charging prohibitive prices) for pre-existing conditions, covering contraceptives, stopping insurance companies from charging women more than men, eliminating the caps on how much an insurance company would pay for medical care, and allowing children to stay on their parents insurance until age 26.
But while Obamacare improved health care in this country, it did NOT fix all the problems of our health care system. There are some counties and states where health insurance is not offered (or is too expensive). Much of this has been caused by the uncertainty of the system due to Republican efforts to damage Obamacare -- but not all of it.
The fact is that Obamacare had some deficiencies when it was passed. First, it did not cover all Americans. If nothing is done, at least 28 million people will still be without health insurance by 2026. That's inexcusable. Other developed countries cover all of their citizens with health care or health insurance, and they do it at a much lower per capita cost.
Second, Obamacare did virtually nothing to control the rapidly rising cost of medical care in this country. Measures must be put in place to control those costs. At the very least, the government should be able to negotiate prices with doctors, hospitals, and drug companies.
Third, Obamacare did not mandate that insurance companies participate in all states and counties. This has resulted in many insurance companies cherry-picking the places they will sell insurance (picking only those places where they can make the biggest profit). If we are going to stick with a private insurance system, then any company wanting to sell health insurance in this country should be required to sell in every state and county -- and should be required to participate in the Obama subsidy program.
Obamacare is not the best of all solutions for health care in this country -- a single-payer system would, in my opinion, be better. But our politicians are not ready to do that, and the public is probably not ready to accept a change that radical (at least, not yet). But Obamacare could be fixed to work much better than it currently does -- and that should be done as quickly as possible.