(Photo courtesy of russellsage.org)

By YOUSUF ALI, Opinions Editor

In many ways, the situation of American healthcare is a paradox. We spend more than any other country on healthcare (15 percent of GDP), yet our outcomes are dismal considering the amount of money we spend. Not only do we lag behind, in 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States 37th in terms of the performance of its health system, not only behind countries like France and Germany, but also behind Morocco and Colombia. Since then, the United States has made modest improvements, but we can do better.

In 2009, this country passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, after a contentious debate in Congress. The law contains a number of provisions which made healthcare available to more people in the society. Nevertheless, the bill did not do enough to control the already inordinately high cost of healthcare. For example, Obama dropped a provision that would have established a public option without much of a fight. This allowed private insurance companies to maintain oligopolies or even monopolies in many parts of the country, allowing for costs to continue rising (albeit at a slower pace). Nevertheless, many have taken advantage of this fact in order to attack Obamacare as part of a government-led conspiracy to turn America into a communist state. Thus, when the Republicans won both houses of Congress and the presidency in 2016, they were presented with the perfect opportunity to destroy this landmark piece legislation.

Ever since Obamacare was passed seven years ago, the Republicans have tried countless times to repeal Obamacare only to be met with a veto. In all this time, the majority Republican Congress has failed to unite around one plan as a replacement. One such plan has been proposed by the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price R-Ga. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, this plan would “make it much more difficult for low-income Americans to afford health insurance” since it would divert federal funding to people who can already purchase coverage. Because of this, Democrats held rallies across the country including one in Warren featuring Bernie Sanders. In the rally, the speakers urged attendees to appeal to their elected officials not to throw millions of people under the bus by abolishing Obamacare without a replacement. Here is my humble attempt:

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and other Republican members of Congress,

My name is Yousuf Ali, and I am a registered voter from Michigan. I wanted to start my message by wishing you a happy belated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Regardless of our political views, we all honor the legacy of this great civil rights icon and those who worked with him.

The Republican-controlled Congress wishes to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), better known as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I understand that the system it has created contains a number of flaws which must be addressed to achieve a society in which healthcare is truly affordable for all; however there are several aspects of Obamacare which have benefitted millions across this country. For example, people may not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and children may stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26. These provisions have saved lives, and simply eliminating these without an adequate replacement will result in TENS OF MILLIONS of Americans losing their health insurance according to the Congressional Budget Office. Make no mistake. Many people in this country WILL DIE if they lose the coverage provided by the ACA. With that I’d like to request that the Republican-controlled Congress do one of three things:

  1. Show the American people a DETAILED replacement plan, and allow sufficient time for robust debate both in and outside of Congress before the ACA is repealed and replaced. Also, ensure that the plan goes into effect IMMEDIATELY after the system created by the ACA is dismantled.
  2. Amend the problematic aspects of the ACA. This will make sure that the millions of Americans who gained health insurance may keep it while making healthcare affordable for everyone.
  3. Do nothing. If you do not have any coherent or viable plan for making sure that the millions of Americans who have gained coverage under the ACA are able to retain their access to healthcare at a reasonable cost, it is better to simply leave the bill alone rather than depriving millions of Americans of their healthcare.

I hope that you seriously consider my suggestions when dealing with the future of healthcare in this country.

Best regards,

Yousuf Ali
Addendum: One of President Trump’s very first acts since becoming President was to sign an executive order ordering the Secretary of Health and Human Services to loosely interpret the ACA’s provisions that increase the costs to insurers and consumers. Without a replacement plan, such an order will most likely lead to a situation in which insurance providers can deny patients with pre-existing conditions as this would save them massive amounts of money.