It’s Not About Repeal

Posted by on Jan 21, 2011

A whole segment on last night’s Cavuto was devoted to my recently fractured elbow. Slightly excessive, one might say, especially as in the end I’ve come out of it all pretty unscathed – I don’t even have a cast and I’m almost as good as new. However, I adore doing the show and it hopefully made for some amusing viewing.

I joked that it was obviously in the interest of journalistic research that I fell over (in broad daylight, wearing flat shoes) on an icy NYC pavement. Although nobody in their right mind would ever do such a thing, the experience did of course mean I had a bit of a look inside the infamous American healthcare system.

My first thought, as I lay in and out of consciousness on the concrete, was clearly “ow”. The next was: “I’m uninsured”. This is not because I’m a Muppet – it’s just I’ve got a whole load of unique circumstances that I haven’t managed to figure out the insurance for yet.

But for hundreds of millions of people around the world, this is a very shocking thought process to have in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Many in developed countries live by the philosophy that unless everyone can afford to call an ambulance, nobody can.

No system is perfect. But Americans do not have healthcare, they have health insurance. And 50 million Americans do not have that. So 50 million Americans cannot afford, basically, to fall over, let alone do anything more sinister to themselves.

America is still the best country on the planet. The world’s only superpower. I think most would agree its healthcare situation is less than ideal for a country of its great stature.

And so we come to Obamacare, which the Republicans are in the process of trying to repeal. Many argue that it is “un American”. Too “Socialist”.

I find it worth noting to start with, that Obama’s healthcare legislation is based in part on a Republican’s reforms… namely Mitt Romney’s in Massachusetts.

Now I’m a pragmatist. The Republicans have had years to sort healthcare out. They didn’t. They are not about to if repeal ever happens – too many special interest groups, lobbyists etc. would come to the fore. Obama had a unique opportunity to do something and if his legislation remains in place until 2014, when all the reforms kick in, millions of Americans should see the benefit. There are hugely popular elements to much of Obamacare, including the rules on pre-existing conditions and coverage for those up to the age of 26.

But what about the cost? There are a lot of scaremongers going on about this at the moment.

It should be noted that the non partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repeal would add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade and much more in future years. Adding to the deficit is not where the US wants to be right now.

Obama made cost control central to health reform legislation. This is key. Repeal is not the answer; Americans deserve access to healthcare. But it’s vital that from this point on, Obama fights to strengthen the cost containment mechanisms within the bill.

However this is not enough. Notwithstanding the need for general spending and taxation reform across the board to deal with America’s massive federal deficit, there also has to be a fundamental shift in the American lifestyle.

$147 billion is spent on obesity related healthcare a year. 1 in 3 Americans is obese. Obesity kills 100,000 Americans a year. It is a public health catastrophe that threatens to shorten American life expectancy for the first time since the Civil War. The First Lady is on the right track, but this issue must be addressed with absolute urgency.

Yes, it is important that every American has access to healthcare. But every American also needs access to food and a healthy lifestyle that will help themselves. And taking such personal responsibility is very much the American way.