Red, White and True: The failure of the American Healthcare Act

“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” – Walter Cronkite

On Friday afternoon, the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare, the signature healthcare law implemented by the previous presidential administration, died a quick and painful death. The bill was supposed to come to a vote on the House floor, but was pulled when it became evident that the votes to pass the bill were not there. The death of the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), was a result of the larger issue permeating healthcare policy in America: the inability for bipartisan agreement.

Ever since President Obama made it a priority to fix American healthcare, health insurance has been one of the most divisive topics in political spheres. Anyone who supported Obamacare was reviled by Republicans, who pointed to the rising premiums and major insurance companies who dropped from the exchanges as evidence of the failing system. To the contrary, anyone who opposed Obamacare cared about nothing else but saving money and watching people die, according to Democrats. After Obamacare was passed, Republicans spent the next six years campaigning on a promise to repeal and replace it and repeatedly tried to pass legislation to do so.

In the wake of the collapse of the AHCA, Democrats seemed content to laugh at Republicans’ failure rather than try to help them pick up the pieces. The refusal of either side to acknowledge each other’s deep rooted concerns is made even more petty when the paramount issue at stake is people’s health.

Obamacare is not a perfect system, but it would be extremely difficult and disruptive to repeal it without an adequate replacement. There are certainly issues with Obamacare that are worth addressing, such as the inability for companies to sell healthcare across state lines to promote competition. However, cutting Medicaid expansion and stripping the essential benefits from healthcare would only help the bottom line of the government and health insurance companies. In the AHCA, the only solutions presented are ones that harm people who rely on government healthcare and help wealthy people who would receive a tax cut. The bill was ultimately brought down by the fact that it tried to please everyone and satisfied no one.

Healthcare is one of the most important parts of a well-functioning society, yet it has been turned into a political tool. Republicans, because they campaigned to repeal Obamacare quickly, tried to speed through a legislative process that took Democrats years to complete. If both sides took the political aspect out of healthcare, they could meet on the common ground of the law that they both agree on. These include guaranteed treatment for preexisting conditions and the ability of someone to stay on his or her parents’ healthcare plan until they are 26. Additionally, aspects of Obamacare such as the individual mandate could be discussed reasonably instead of Republicans treating it like the plague and avoiding it altogether.

The AHCA was a product of politics. To craft a healthcare law that comes closer to addressing the real issues with Obamacare, many politicians will have to swallow their egos and work together.