Friday, October 11, 2013

Is "Obamacare" Socialized Medicine?

First, a little clarification. The terminally ignorant continue to rant about the PPACA, or the ACA, or Obamacare (all different names for the exact same legislation) somehow equating to socialized medicine. Why do I think this is ignorance? I'll tell you why, because the ACA is not about regulating medicine or the medical professionals who provide it, it is about regulating health insurance companies by such means as:

  • removing from insurance companies the ability to screw you over at the drop of a hat by refusing to provide what you pay them to provide
  • implementing a list of required basic coverages all policies must include
  • giving more people access to health insurance through subsidies, and
  • creating easy to compare standardized plans to complement any other plans any insurance company wishes to create and market.

Now, on to socialism. What exactly is socialism? I checked out close to a dozen online dictionaries along with a few prominent websites, both right leaning and left leaning to see if there was any uniformity or agreement between them as to what defines socialism. Oddly enough, there was, and a lot of it. Definitions and descriptions in articles on the left leaning MSNBC were almost identical to those posted on "The Foundry", the blog of the right leaning Heritage Foundation, and the definitions on both were practically word for word identical to those in the dictionaries. The central foundation of all of them is that socialism requires that capital, major industry, production of goods and the distribution of goods are all owned and controlled by the community as a whole or by a centralized government.

So with this in mind, lets's take a look at what the ACA does regulate, insurance companies. Who owns the insurance companies from which you will buy health insurance? The people? No. The government? No. They are corporations, operating for the purpose of making a profit for themselves and/or their shareholders. This is not socialism. This is capitalism.

Are the goods (the insurance plans) offered by these companies owned or controlled by the people, or by a centralized government? There are four basic plans, the terms of which were set by the government for the sake of allowing accurate and easy comparison, but the insurance companies are also free to create any other plans they so choose then sell them on the very same exchanges. They are free to combine coverage limits, types of coverages, varying levels of co-pay and other terms of their choosing in any level or levels they wish. The goods are created by capitalist insurance companies to be sold in a capitalist market. Is this socialism? No. This is capitalism.

How about the prices, are they determined by "the people" or by a central government? No, they are not. They are determined by the capitalist insurance company offering the plan. Is this socialism? No. This is capitalism.

So how about the exchanges from which you can purchase health insurance if you don't already have it? Are you required to ditch your present plan and buy from the exchange? Nope. Most Americans already insured through employer paid plans won't see much change and will have no need to even access the exchanges, much less buy from them. Are the plans offered there, or the companies which offer them, controlled by the people or the government? No and no. Any insurance company can participate (subject to varying state-by-state regulations) and they can offer any plans they choose. The closest thing to Socialism here are the four base plans that must be offered for the purpose of easy coverage and price comparison, any other plans offered in addition to these are up to the company offering them. Insurance companies compete in a free market for consumers who decide what to buy based on quality and price as determined by those offering the product for sale. Is this socialism? No. This is capitalism.

But "The Federal Government operates the exchange in my state, that's socialism" you may claim. It may very well be that the federal government runs the exchange for your state. However, your state's exchange will operate the same as those of states who have opted to run their own, free market competition amongst private insurance companies. Is this socialism? No. It is capitalism.

<digression>It is worth noting that the states not running their own exchanges and therefore subject to the federal government doing it for them are overwhelmingly Republican led, the same people leading the "Socialized Medicine" cry. Why would those supposedly so against socialized medicine willfully and intentionally inflict it upon the people of their state? They didn't, because it's not and they know it's not.

It's also worth noting that the states who have opted to let the federal government run their exchanges, and which are overwhelmingly Republican, also tend to rank near the bottom of the list in terms of health care quality and access. It would seem that Republican politicians don't just oppose the Patient Protection and Afforable Care Act, they oppose health care altogether. In fact, some red states are actively engaged in making it as difficult as possible to enroll through the marketplace.</digression>

What we see here is that none of the industry of health insurance, the goods it produces, the means by which the goods are distributed or the capital generated by distribution of those goods are owned or controlled by "the people" or a central government as a result of the ACA. The consumer decides what to buy, the consumer decides from which company they will buy, and the consumer decides how much money they will spend when they buy. This is not socialism and it is not health care or "medicine" therefore it can not be socialized medicine. Anyone who continues to use this term when discussing the ACA is either ignorant beyond description or a liar. There are plenty of real flaws in the ACA, nobody needs to fabricate more.

I'll leave you with two quotes, each attributed to their source:

“You know who should be angry about Obamacare? Real socialists. The tea party opponents of the Affordable Care Act promised them a government incursion that the new law does not deliver.

Think back to the rallies of 2009 and 2010. All those signs mocking President Barack Obama with the word socialist emblazoned upon them were as common as Gadsden ("Don't Tread on Me") flags. But the health-care exchanges that launched Tuesday bear no resemblance to what Merriam-Webster defines as 'a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.'”
- Michael Smerconish, news columnist & political analyst

"Obamacare cannot be considered socialist in any way. The ACA program relies on private health insurance companies to manage health services. A socialized system would not include ‘health insurance’ but would be an actual national health-care system which would be publicly funded through progressive taxation and controlled by democratically elected assemblies of health-care workers and patients."
- Greg Pason, national secretary for Socialist Party USA

No comments:

Post a Comment