Is it uncivilized for a society with the power to save someone to let them die? Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are only a few of the world leaders where a person is eligible for basic care regardless of their financial situation.
In the United States, however, we all-too-often see the consequences of citizens that can’t afford to pay for a doctor. Say what you will about the importance of the free market, say what you will about how the United States is different from other countries — denial of care is turning a blind eye.
In Prince George County, Maryland, a 12-year old homeless boy passed away in 2007 of implications from an infection in his tooth. Driver’s family knew he was sick, but a lapse in their state-funded Medicaid coverage kept him from getting the treatment needed to save his life. The media called it a story of death by toothache and a national disgrace.
Changes implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were intended to improve the situation. It is possible that the expanded version of Medicaid implemented under Obamacare could have made the difference for Driver. The ACA has moved us a step closer to where we need to be, but it is not universal health care.
In 2016, the United States’ health care system ranked last in a comparison of ten developed countries. In the survey of nearly 27,000 people, the Commonwealth Fund found that 43 percent of low-income Americans went without health care. Even the closest nation to the US, Switzerland, was over 10 percent lower at 31.
The ACA has helped millions of Americans who couldn't otherwise afford care become insured, but unfortunately there is still work to be done. The system that took so much work to build is peeling back at the edges as private insurers withdraw from state exchanges, leaving zero competition and driving premiums up.
Without a public option to force private companies to remain competitive, enrollment isn’t reaching the levels needed to make Obamacare affordable. Employers, who pay to cover 60 percent of Americans, have been saddled with costs so great it’s difficult for some small businesses to keep the doors open.
The GOP has proselytized about repealing and replacing Obamacare for some time now, but none of their suggestions are even remotely promising. “Trumpcare” would cost more than 20 million covered Americans their insurance and remove the safety net for existing conditions the ACA guarantees.
Instead of making a political football out of people’s health, we need a novel solution — but what is it?
Many Americans feel that a single-payer health care system can work for the United States, much as it does in Canada, Switzerland, and more of the nations that ranked higher in the Commonwealth survey.
Simply put, such a system would provide baseline health care for any American citizen. Funding would come from the money currently allotted to Medicaid and Medicare, with help from an increased tax. The proposal has been called "Medicare for all." It could guarantee children like Deamonte Driver a fighting chance.
The beauty of the single-payer approach is that Obamacare can be used as a groundwork for it. Even former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner concedes that Obamacare is unlikely to be repealed — it is too much a part of our society now and pulling it out by the roots would do more harm than good.
The GOP knows this, and the best among them know that it’s time to stop behaving like a schoolchild hiding his bad report card from mom and dad. They need to stand up to the president, stand up to the insurance companies, and do what’s right for their fellow man. American lives are counting on them.