Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has saved Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act—for the second time and signs of relief from its supporters have subsided, there is a certain amount of buyer’s remorse circulating in liberal media circles.
“In the post-ACA era, you can be insured but have little or no coverage for what you actually need,” writes Trudy Lieberman in Harper’s July issue, in a feature titled, “Wrong Prescription? The Failed Promise of the Affordable Care Act.” “The ACA’s greatest legacy may finally be the fulfillment of a conservative vision laid out three decade ago, which sought to transform American health care into a market driven system.”
Writing in the Nation (and posted on AlterNet), Kai Wright listed three steps that must happen for a better “functioning and equitable healthcare system.” He cited expanding enrollment in Medicaid—state-subsidized care for poorer people—in the 22 states that have not done so; making sure the coverage offered is sufficient and is not undermined by unaffordable co-pays; and hoping that state insurance regulators will do more to prevent predatory price hikes.
Chief among the gripes, however, is that Obamacare is not the long-sought dream of universal health care—a right, not a privilege or a profit center. In other words, now that Obamacare is not going to be swept away by Republicans who are unable to get past a White House veto or win in the highest courts, what remains is not so wonderful, affordable or even historic—unless what’s historic is the missed opportunity.
Whenever a federal reform involves one-sixth of the U.S. economy, which is the size of the health care sector, it’s always possible to cherrypick gripes and praise. But it seems like the latest whacks at Obamacare from the liberal left are a bit unfair, as they overly emphasize what’s long been dysfunctional in the political process and in the insurance industry’s middleman role, while ignoring what the law has actually achieved.