In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Throughout the remaining years of his presidency, the number of uninsured Americans was halved, reaching historically low numbers. Many of the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions gained protection, 800,000 Americans struggling with opioid addiction gained treatment and two million young adults remained insured through their parents. It appeared that we were following nearly every other industrialized nation in proclaiming healthcare as a human right.
Canada manages to cover every citizen with their government-run insurance program.
France is regarded as having the world’s best system while sticking with a universal, private, non-profit model.
Switzerland recently made the moral decision to ensure healthcare access to all residents.
In 2000, the U.S. system was ranked 37th in the world by the WHO. We were seeing higher infant mortality, avoidable mortality and uninsured rates than any other high-income nation. These results persisted, despite spending a significantly larger percentage of our GDP on healthcare.
The Affordable Care Act was finally bringing us to closer competition with these other nations. However, this progress is already starting to reverse.
The number of uninsured Americans has been climbing up since 2016, 7 billion dollars have been removed from the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Trump has cut hundreds of millions of dollars of public health funding from the CDC. Donald Trump has been clear on his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a viable alternative, and while this hasn’t happened yet, it is still under fire.
Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court could very well be the tipping point for the ACA, resulting in tens of millions of Americans losing their coverage, all in the middle of a pandemic. There is a way to avoid further damage, however, by voting for Joe Biden.
Biden’s team estimates that his plan could insure over 97% of Americans through adding a public health insurance option, extending coverage to more working Americans, ensuring the Medicaid (health coverage for low-income Americans) expansion in all 50 states and protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. The plan also aids middle class families by capping premiums and lowering deductibles. His platform addresses price-gouging practices through limiting drug price increases and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. This would allow for affordable access to life-saving drugs such as insulin.
If all this is difficult to grasp as a college student, consider it from a social justice lens.
The ACA has been important in addressing systemic racism, bringing the uninsured rates of non-elderly African Americans and Hispanics down forty percent.
Insurance companies frequently deny pre-existing conditions, which disproportionately leads to communities of color paying out of pocket.
The maternal mortality rate is three times higher for black mothers than white mothers, largely due to lifelong healthcare barriers. Without the ACA, ensuring coverage for pregnant women would be stripped as well, disproportionately harming black and brown communities.
There are steps that this nation can take to reduce maternal and infant mortality. There are ways to reduce healthcare disparities among black and brown communities. We have the hospitals and physicians in place to reduce avoidable mortality.
Creating a more ethical, just healthcare system starts with voting for a president that believes healthcare is a human right.
This is the opinion of
Elliot Edeburn and