Curing the U.S.

Every American should have medical insurance – this was the most attractive campaign promise regarding domestic politics that Obama made during his run for presidency. As the Senate voted before Christmas to pass the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, this campaign promise finally took a large step toward realization.

In fact, in 1993 President Clinton also ambitiously vowed to pass a bill for universal healthcare, in addition to specifically appointing First Lady Hilary Clinton to be responsible for this. However, in the end, because of opposition from Congress, this act faced a dismal finale. Hilary also felt the effects of this failure, having been criticized during last year’s presidential campaign for not having enough political clout.

In view of Clinton’s experience, Obama’s success was definitely related to his strong promotion of the bill, but what Obama must also admit is that he happened to come upon a prime opportunity – Democratic control of Congress. Especially in the Senate, if one Republican crossed party lines, the Democrats would actually have 60 seats, which is the first time in 30 years that the Democrats would have the advantage. According to Senate rules, Democrats could use this 60-seat majority to bring a halt to debates regarding a bill and directly enter the final voting process. This is the reason why the vote on this healthcare bill was able to proceed this past Christmas Eve. One can imagine that if the Democrats lose just one seat after the mid-term elections for Congress next year, the result of a re-vote could be totally different.

The reason Obama is pushing for healthcare reform is that the current healthcare system, in his eyes, has several fatal flaws. However, objectively speaking, the past few administrations have all known that the issue of healthcare insurance is a “cancer” in the long-term, healthy development of the U.S. Steps must be taken to control and cure it, but because reforming the current healthcare system would inevitably hurt the vested interests of some groups, past bills were not able to get the political support they needed. This allowed the problem to drag on until today and set the stage for President Obama and Congress to become the new Surgeons-in-Chief, who will come and cure the U.S.

The three main ingredients of Obama’s prescription are no additional taxes, universal healthcare for all and no increase in the government deficit. The first two ingredients are mainly for the purpose of winning more support from the people, and the last ingredient was originally the important goal of healthcare reform. Under normal circumstances, these three requirements hold some inherent contradictions. Under the preconditions of not increasing the government deficit and not increasing taxes, where will the money to support universal healthcare come from? According to Obama’s diagnosis and treatment plan, the money will ultimately be taken from the pockets of insurance companies. Obama has always firmly believed that health insurance companies have driven up the cost of healthcare in their pursuit of profit, which is obviously unreasonable. Therefore, passing this reform bill would make their profits decrease, and decreasing insurance expenses would make health insurance affordable to even the lowest wage-earners.

In light of this, insurance companies would be the greatest casualties in this era of healthcare reform, which would undoubtedly spark an extreme response and intensive lobbying. However, this type of response and lobbying would not have a substantial influence on Democrats. Not only that, the insurance industry only has itself to blame for the fate it will meet. Statistics on political contributions show that, in each mid-term election between 1992 and 2008, insurance companies’ political contributions to Republicans have largely surpassed those to Democrats, the proportion being about 63 percent to 37 percent on average for the past 16 years. In view of this historical record, despite strong support from Republicans, insurance companies would still be helpless under the strong force of the Democrats, who have the majority of seats in this session of Congress. The insurance industry has no choice but to become the sacrificial lamb.

It is important to point out that, with all their political resources and staunch support for healthcare reform, the Democrats definitely intend to solve the country’s problems. However, this political party is undeniably motivated by self-interest, too. When 40 million low-income individuals gain the opportunity to have health insurance due to a reform bill passed by a Democratic president and Congress, won’t they express their gratitude and support through votes in future mid-term and presidential elections? Therefore, even though this bill may meet the opposition of some interest groups, it is still worth a try, considering the large number of potential supporters that could be won.

Nevertheless, there is still some hidden danger behind the Democrats using their collective party power to ensure the passing of this healthcare bill. In case Obama’s prescription is proven to have no noticeable curative effect for the “American patient,” his political reputation would undoubtedly be severely damaged by this major “medical error.” The political backlash Democrats would face would be suffocating and the potential benefits that they had awaited would not only fail to be realized, but Republicans would also have more fire to add to their criticisms. Fortunately, Democrats have decided to let this reform bill come into effect in 2013 at the earliest. Before any attention can even be paid to its effect, the next presidential election will have already ended.

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