US Health Care
Even with a high budgetary allocation for the U.S. healthcare industry, medical facilities are not available for every citizen of the state. For this reason, the federal government passed a healthcare reform bill in 2010. The bill has been severely criticized by the Republicans and has resulted in a court case that could even jeopardize the 2012 presidential election campaign. Countering the Republican Party’s ire, Democrats suggested changes in the final draft of the bill.
Healthcare in the United States
The annual budget allocated by the United States is $2trillion, which is higher than the budget allocation for health by any other first world country. As per the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) statistics, the U.S. government allocates more than 2.5 times the average budget spent by the other OECD members.
However, even with this enormous amount of money being spent on healthcare by the government, the OECD report reveals that healthcare coverage is still not available to every American equally.
Introducing the Healthcare Reform Law
Addressing the issue, U.S. President Barack Obama approved the healthcare reform legislation on March 23, 2010. As part of the law, state-operated medical insurance organizations, Medicaid and Medicare, were upgraded to increase the accessibility of health benefits to a greater number of people at a much lower cost.
In order to fulfill the regulatory measures suggested by the healthcare reform law, more than $938 billion will be invested by the U.S. government over the next decade. While the law was a measure accomplishment for the then two-year old Obama administration, it divided the political circles throughout America, drawing heavy criticism from the Republican Party.
In a nutshell, the bill proposed that:
1. Penalties for those who do not subscribe to a health coverage plan by 2014 in the following manner:
- 2014: $95 annually or 0.5 percent of the total earnings (whichever is higher) – 2015: $495 annually or 1 percent of earnings – 2016 $750 or 2 percent of earnings
In subsequent years, penalties would be decided based on the inflation rate.
2. Exemptions included people with ethnic or religiously opposing views, and households earning less than 100 percent of the poverty level.
The Criticism on Healthcare Reform Law
The healthcare law introduced by President Obama was condemned by the Republicans, regarding the legislation as an act of interference on the part of the government. According to them, the introduction of the law can trigger job providers to respond by cutting down on the job opportunities and benefits they provide.
Moreover, the Republicans criticized the law for promising more than it could sustain, burdening both the state and federal governments with expenses they could not bear. Many members of the Republican Party also saw it as a breach of patient-doctor confidentiality.
How the Republicans Reacted
As a backlash to the Obama administration’s introduction of the law, the law did not receive even a single vote of confidence when its final draft was released. Members of the Republican Party protested against the bill throughout United States and vowed to get the law revoked. On the governmental level, the Republicans were not able to get the law revoked by the government.
However, the matter was challenged in the Supreme Court, which called for a hearing on November 14, 2011. This would mean that the court hearing about the healthcare law would continue throughout March 2012, with the decision expected in June of the same year. This could also mean bad news for the presidential candidates involved in the debate, since the court case will continue during the time the 2012 campaign for presidential elections is in full swing.
Democrats’ Handling of the Issue
Democrats tried to calm the tension by suggesting that the law be introduced in 3 steps, with the following changes:
1. Penalty amount would be:
2014: $95 annually or 1 percent of earnings
2015: $325 or 2 percent of earnings
2016: $395 or 2.5 percent of earnings
2. Exemptions to be made on tax eligibility