The Lie of "Great Health Care"
Updated: Oct 8
On Tuesday night, millions of Americans tuned in to the first presidential debate. Traditionally, these debates provide Americans with a chance to gain a clearer picture of the candidates' positions. Under normal circumstances viewers would ask questions like ‘who is the candidate?’ and ‘what does the candidate believe?’ Yet during this week's debate, most Americans were left asking ’what did I just watch?'
There were several topics ‘discussed’, including the oh-so controversial topic of health care. President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden clashed in the first moments of the debate over the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Biden pointed out that the future of the ACA is at risk and that Trump supports a GOP lawsuit seeking to end the Affordable Care Act. Neither the President, nor the GOP have presented a comprehensive plan to reinsure the Americans who would suffer if the ACA was repealed.
Photo credit: Reuters & Kevin Dietsch/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM
As the debate continued, Chris Wallace sparred with the President, saying “you have never in these four years come up with a plan” referring to the current administration’s failed attempts to overturn the ACA. “I got rid of the individual mandate” Trump replied, in reference to the laws' requirement that everyone have health insurance. Trump continued by accusing Biden of supporting Medicare for All, although in reality, Biden has been an outspoken opponent to the policy. He does, however, support the choice of a ‘public option’. The two continued to argue throughout the night. But what is so significant about the ‘debate’ surrounding healthcare? Simply put, it is a reflection of how something which is considered a basic human right, the right to health care, can become a polarizing issue.
As a young American living abroad, I have seen what affordable health care for all (a.k.a., universal healthcare) means to citizens of a country. There is no hesitation to see a doctor because it is unaffordable, there are no worries about how much a hospital stay might cost.
Here, in The Netherlands, health care is universal - and mandatory. It is also illegal for companies to refuse coverage for anyone or impose punitive fees or conditions based on financial or health situation (1). The system is privatized but heavily regulated by the government (read more about the system here). Although it is not perfect, this system ensures that all citizens have access to health care and health insurance. The government regulates the cost of insurance provided by private insurance companies, determines what basic health insurance should cover, and subsequently the cost of health care itself. The idea of not being able to afford health insurance is unimaginable for most Dutch people I speak with. In Europe, there is disagreement about the details of how universal health care coverage should be achieved, but the question “if universal health care should exist” is never asked because the premise is that everyone should be covered.
Trump exclaimed several times that all he wants to do is provide Americans with “great health care”, but his actions seem to support the opposite. The current administration has a track record of slowly stripping away the little health care rights Americans had. Currently, we allow too many Americans to slip through the cracks without any health care safety net. If universal health care or even a public option are so awful, why has every other developed country implemented it? With almost 71% of Americans supporting some form of universal health care(2), the debate was a reflection of how out of tune President Trump is with the average American. What is the “great health care” Trump is promising? It would increase costs and reduce access for the sick in order to lower premiums for the healthy (3). Great health care for the healthy, perhaps, but not for anyone else.