How they see us: Is health care for all un-American?
To most of the rest of the world, the “toxic debate” over health care is baffling.
The Americans may undo President Obama’s signature achievement: universal health care, said Jim Dee in the Belfast, Northern Ireland, Telegraph. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week over whether President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because it requires Americans to purchase health insurance. A verdict is expected this summer, but regardless of how the court rules, the “court of public opinion has already given a major thumbs-down to ‘Obamacare.’” Republicans and the special interests that support them rabidly opposed the legislation when it was first proposed. Insurance companies poured millions of dollars into a massive lobbying campaign that amounted to “fearmongering.” The result was “a hysterical public debate, where distortions and outright fabrications by reform opponents resulted in fears that Obama was readying death panels to kill off the old and sick.”
To most of the rest of the world, the “toxic debate” over health care is baffling, said Lee-Anne Goodman in the Canadian Press. Until the law was passed, the U.S. was the only major industrialized country in the world without a national health-care system. Under the current system, some 50 million Americans are uninsured. Eventually, of course, they get sick or injured, and they visit emergency rooms—forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab. It should be plain to anyone that something has to change. During the debate over the ACA, “Canada’s hallowed universal health care was alternately derided as an inefficient socialist nightmare and lauded as a utopian model for a caring society.” It’s neither, of course, but it’s easily better than the U.S. model. Annual health-care spending in the U.S. totals $2.6 trillion, or $8,402 per person. Canada spends just under $5,000 per person for better health outcomes, including lower infant mortality and higher life expectancy. Such a level of spending “would shave billions from America’s national debt.”
Ironically, had Obama adopted a Canadian- or British-style national health plan, he wouldn’t be in this pickle, said Chris McGreal in the London Guardian. A single-payer, government-run system, in which every citizen gets state health coverage, is clearly constitutional as a state program funded by taxes. The mandate to purchase health insurance from private providers, though, is less clearly in line with the Constitution. One of the briefs filed in the case says the mandate “imposes an extraordinary and unprecedented duty on Americans to enter into costly private contracts”—in effect, forcing every citizen to give money to a private company.
That’s what galls Americans most, said Diederik van Hoogstraten in the Netherlands De Volkskrant. Being told what to do irritates this individualistic society like nothing else. Many critics of the ACA have invoked a slippery-slope argument, saying that what they call Obamacare would lead to “unlimited government intervention” in people’s lives. America would become a “nanny state” that “forces people to eat their broccoli.” The name these critics give for such a frightening place? “Europe.”