Obamacare falls short of country’s needs

Melanie Chan/Staff

There is a problem with health care in America, and it doesn’t take a Democrat or Republican to realize that. Today, 48 million Americans are uninsured, and medical bills are the No. 1 source of private bankruptcy in America. Something needs to be done, but that something is not the Affordable Care Act.

A professor of global economics told me it is the government’s job to provide services to people that cannot be provided profitably by the private sector. Perhaps it also falls to the government to provide services that cannot be provided transparently by the private sector. The “by the people, for the people” government of the United States is committed to a level of transparency that is unrealistic, and perhaps even undesirable, to expect of the private sector. The government’s attempt in the Affordable Care Act to provide a basic level of health care that arguably cannot be provided profitably by the private sector falls short of these heightened transparency standards.

The Affordable Care Act is an unfathomable 2,409 pages long, 2,388 pages longer than a PDF version of the United States Constitution with all 27 amendments. Our president himself doesn’t fully understand the bill. I say this not to condemn our president or his office but rather to comment on the sheer length of the bill. In 2009, our president asserted, “We will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.” He has gone on to convey similar messages in front of cameras on more than seven separate occasions. Recently, he came out and apologized for his mistaken and misstated promises: “I am sorry that (Americans) are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”

Embedded somewhere in the 2,400 pages was a misunderstood claim, a claim so obscured that our president himself did not understand it. Our government’s transparency, its effort to step in where the private sector fell short, is lost on itself. If our government does not understand the bill well enough to catch and prevent blatant misstatement, then we must ask ourselves the question of who does.

Opensecrets.org reports that since 2009, just under $750 million has been spent by the health care industry, and on average in each of those years, 64 percent of congressional staffers and employees involved in health care issues have left the government for the private sector through what has become known as the “revolving door.” The heavy involvement of many of these staffers in drafting the ACA ensures they fully understand the veiled nooks and crannies of the bill. They are able to charge exorbitant amounts for interpreting a bill that was created to be uninterpretable for the rest. Our government, our media outlets and our doctors all have conflicting interpretations of the bill. The only ones who seem to have the right interpretation are experts and former staffers who are no longer accountable to the American people who paid them to draft it.  The ACA is a looming black cloud over the heads of Americans, and hope is not enough to guarantee this cloud will pass without a storm.

I think I speak on behalf of the majority of UC Berkeley’s student body and the American populace when I say it is wrong that individuals are forced to choose between dying without a fight and undergoing life-saving surgery that will almost certainly throw his or her family into crippling debt. But a 2,400-page document is not the way to mitigate this tragic trade-off.

A low-premium, high-deductible option added to existing plans that covers “critical and unforeseen” accidents and illnesses would achieve the said goal better and more directly.  Such a system would also maintain the original appeal of affordable health care. Individuals would be able to keep doctors they trust, and those satisfied with their current plan would not have to change. A low-premium, high-deductible system would address many of the concerns our president had in mind when he envisioned Obamacare and would include none of hidden provisions and technicalities that were rolled into Obamacare when it was drafted.

More importantly, the system would lift the financial burden off us college students after we graduate. A low premium at the age of 26 is a lot more economically viable than the reported and unnecessarily inflated rates healthy Americans under 30 will be paying once Obamacare fully takes effect. A low-premium, high-deductible system can be understood by the patients who make use of it, those who choose to undergo living-saving surgery and, equally importantly, those who schedule regular wellness visits to nip any ailment in the bud. These patients can make informed choices independently because the document informing their choices is not 2,400 convoluted pages long.

Our government was founded to protect our free choice, not to infringe upon it, and the ACA blatantly disregards our fundamentally American and democratic commitment to this ideal.

Arjun Ghai is a member of Berkeley College Republicans.