Citizens in a democracy are entitled to debate the issues in a free marketplace of ideas (newspapers play a vital role in this!) where bad ideas are sifted out and good ideas rise to the surface, at least much of the time. This process cannot work very well, though, if citizens don't have truthful information about the issues. We cannot make good decisions about our real problems if we (and our news media and politicians) don't talk about them realistically.
The Affordable Health Care Act is a conservative idea put forth by the Heritage Foundation, a neo-conservative think tank. It is not a liberal idea, much less a socialist one. It is a conservative idea designed to make people who don't have health insurance buy it. Why would conservatives want to make people buy health insurance? Because everyone, at some time, uses health care services. It is just not realistic to argue about whether people who can't afford to pay the bill should go to the hospital when they have a heart attack or have a baby with a dangerously high fever. Whether you think health care is a right or an optional service, the fact is that human bodies require health care --- they have babies, they get injured, they have diabetes, they get sick. When people don't have health insurance, the rest of us pay the bill. Hospitals bill the rest of us more for the health services we get to help cover the costs of the uninsured people. Insurance companies pass along those hidden costs to us, too, in higher premiums. The Heritage Foundation wanted to make the "deadbeats" who don't have insurance buy policies so that the rest of us didn't have to cover their costs. That's why it wrote the proposal that has become the Affordable Health Care Act.
President Obama and other Democrats added some requirements so that the law is not merely a give-away to big insurance corporations. Insurance companies had to stop denying policies to people with pre-existing conditions and cover certain things like mammograms and health check-ups, for instance.
The Affordable Health Care Act is hardly a liberal program for fixing our health care problems. Many liberals would rather see a single-payer system, basically Medicare for every citizen, which would give the government far more leverage to control health care costs, make health care more accessible, and make health care cheaper by eliminating insurance company profits from health care spending. The liberal plan cuts insurance company profits out of the picture so that we have more to spend on better health care for all Americans, which saves us money in the long run.
As for the charge that the Affordable Health Care Act is a tax, call it what you want, but only those wealthy enough to self-insure will be paying it, and that's about one percent of the population.
Page 2 of 2 - Some people worry that we can't afford to subsidize health insurance for low-income Americans. We -- you and me-- are subsidizing it already. Those with health insurance are charged extra by hospitals and insurance companies to cover the costs of the non-insured. The Affordable Health Care Act is supposed to make the system a little more fair by making more people buy insurance so that they don't push their costs onto the rest of us. Businesses and the poor will get subsidies to help cover the costs of buying health insurance. Insuring more people means improving access to preventive health care, which saves money in the long run, and also means that problems can be treated before they become emergencies, which also saves money. It is not a perfect plan, and it does not address many important issues regarding our health care system. But maybe it's a place to start. At the very least, we owe ourselves and our democracy an honest, factual discussion of the issue.
Tamara King, Boonville