Seriously. I don’t know what the furore is about and I’ll admit to watching the debating about the future of the law labelled “Obamacare” with a mixture of disbelief and total confusion. What’s wrong with the idea those millions of people currently without access to medical care (not strictly true, but we’ll get to that later) would be able to go see a doctor or get hospital treatment?

I don't hate broccoli

Twenty years ago, when I still lived in Washington, D.C., I had no medical insurance. I was a temp, living in a studio apartment just off 16th Street in North West D.C. and I wouldn’t say my neighbours and I were well off. I was young and lucky enough to not get sick while I lived there – or not sick enough to warrant a doctor visit, anyway. What would I have done if I’d needed it? I don’t have an answer to that, as it was probably pretty stupid.

Now I live in London, in the UK, and anything I earn is taxed and a proportion of that income goes to supporting the National Health Service. I won’t pretend it’s brilliant, although it has its moments. There are waiting lists for certain types of non-critical surgery; I have a difficult time getting an appointment with my doctor because he’s so busy; and yes, it can be slow.

But. I CAN go to my doctor if I need to – and not pay for the appointment. Prescriptions are all the same price, if you have to pay. And there’s no ghettoisation of people who don’t have insurance. Poor people don’t have to die from lack of medical attention.

So I guess you can see my confusion.

I’ve got lots of friends in the U.S. who support the law. I know a few people who don’t. What I don’t get is why people don’t like the idea. Particularly when the way I read it, a lot of people will be better off when there is some subsidy for medical treatment.

I ain’t payin’ for them

Do they believe it’s going to cost them something? I.e. more than they’re paying now? That’s a laugh. Because, see, if you’re paying your Blue Cross and Blue Shield now, you’re already paying to support the people without insurance! Yes, you heard me right: your insurance premiums are so high to subsidise the people who go to hospital or see a doctor without insurance. According to one article I read, those uninsureds have added around $1,000 to every family’s premiums. That’s every year.

Well, they have to pay for it somehow. So if you object to paying for someone else – whatever your reasons – too late. Because if you turn up at hospital without insurance, they will still treat you. They won’t just put you out on the curb and let you die, like some folk seem to be recommending (and I’ll get to that later).

A couple of months ago there was an article on Slate.com saying America’s healthcare is already socialised. Due to changes in the way Medicare works during the Reagan administration, Medicare stopped paying the actual costs of treatment and just paid a flat fee for every patient. Of course, this fee quickly failed to cover the actual costs of treatment. So what did the hospitals do? They bumped the prices privately insured people paid. Ah, there’s the quote I was looking for:

“In effect, this practice amounts to an annual tax of about $922 per privately insured family, which defrays the cost of those on public insurance.”

But that’s not all. Hospitals have become experts at spreading the funding around, often using the lucrative departments like cardiac surgery and intensive care or research facilities to fund treatments that don’t draw a lot of funding like psychiatry or endocrinology. So yes, you’re already paying for it.

“Let ‘em die!”

One of the more (or should I say ‘many’) political trends I’m seeing from my side of the pond is this polarisation of ‘us and them’ taking place at the moment. I’m sure that everyone who’s anti Obamacare doesn’t believe the phrase above, but if you listen to the media there’s a good chunk of the populace that thinks we should let people die if they can’t afford healthcare.

This is jaw-droppingly shocking to me. What I find even more confusing is that a lot of the people who espouse these views claim to be “Christian”. Sorry, but my Bible doesn’t read that way. Jesus said things like “love your neighbour” and told a story about a guy who stopped and helped a guy dying by the road. Peter talked about love, too, in that bit about ‘faith, hope and charity (love)’, then says the greatest of these is charity. So what Bible are they reading?

The thing is, having the attitude of ‘let them die’ is fine when you can afford to pay for healthcare or have it as a benefit through your job. It’s quite another matter when you suddenly lose that job, as a lot of people have lately, and find yourself unable to pay for it. I’m of the opinion that people believe one thing until circumstances change to convince them otherwise, because let’s face it: people are selfish. The one great truth I can point to is that everyone asks the question ‘how does it benefit me?’ when faced with a new situation. And I guess that just proves those ‘Christians’ are as selfish as everybody else.

My Dad

Okay, if you’re still with me, this is the last bit.

If you didn’t know, my Dad has Crohn’s disease and has had treatment for it for a number of years. I guess we should be grateful he’s always paid for health insurance and then went onto Medicare when he turned 65 – he’s likely still healthy because of both of them. One of his treatments which he has to have every six or seven weeks would be impossible to fund without the healthcare system.

He also had prostate surgery in 2008 followed by radiotherapy which again, he wouldn’t have been able to afford any other way than insurance or Medicare. (Surgery using a robotic device that only reached the UK in the last 12-18 months, I’ll have you know).

So yes, I think Obamacare is a good idea – if anything it should make it fairer for the ‘honest’ folk who pay for medical insurance already.

And calm down, the government isn’t going to make anyone buy broccoli.