Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Obamacare a start to fix shameful disparity

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Poorer people have long been on the perimeter for healthcare. Photo / AP
Poorer people have long been on the perimeter for healthcare. Photo / AP

The Unites States media went into a frenzy when their Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote this week that the Democratic Party's health reforms were lawful.

Now known as Obamacare, the reforms were passed two years ago by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by their president.

In this country, although it's one of our favourite pastimes to bag the public system, most of us, when we have the misfortune to use it, are pleasantly surprised at how good it really is.

It's barbaric that the world's richest country doesn't have a public health system available to all its citizens. Having only private health insurance without any public alternative is mystifying when these private insurance health providers have the right to refuse clients with any potential health issues. It's a no-brainer then that these insurers give prospective clients a medical check and turn down anyone they can't make a buck on. Unless you have good genes, they won't touch you.

And it gets worse. If a client, after signing on, does get some disease or other problem, their premiums increase to a profitable level or their policy is cancelled. Even the providers limit their coverage, so if a client or their kids have a major illness, they have to take out loans to cover the shortfall.

Once a provider does drop a client as a bad risk, these people, not surprisingly, find it difficult to get new health insurance. Consequently, millions of Americans have no insurance. They live in fear that if they or their kids get ill they will lose everything they have.

When they run out of money they curl up and die.

How is a system allowed to exist where private health providers get away with such a colossal crime against humanity? No other Western country would put up with it.

These corporations provide millions in funds to politicians to stop any reform. That's why, even when the Democrats had the majority in both Houses of Congress, when Barack Obama was elected President, his own supporters wouldn't consider an option where people could choose a government-run scheme. There were more than enough politicians in the insurers' pockets to maintain the moneymaking racket.

And what's the crime about Obamacare that their highest court threatened to overturn it this week? Opponents are apparently outraged that under Obamacare most Americans are required to get subsidised health coverage that includes their children.

In turn, providers can't refuse applicants with pre-existing medical problems and, while employers are subsidised, they must provide coverage for their employees.

The drug companies are levied to help pay for it and, to appease the right-wing, the whole health system remains in private hands and requires no additional taxes. They expected the conservatives to be grateful.

Obamacare is a step in the correct direction but it is so right-wing that even the Act Party in this country would blush.

So why have the providers been able to whip up so much support to where an overwhelming majority of the country oppose Obamacare?

Apart from the usual lies and misinformation, it comes down to this simple equation: the wealthy and healthy half of America receives the finest private health care in the world at an affordable price. They get it because their sick and poor neighbours are cut out.

It's a classic "screw you", a deformed Darwinism where the market rules and the fittest survive.

New Zealand owes a lot of thanks to the early socialists who set up our public health system. All citizens paid according to their means and provided the means so everyone received the health care they needed.

Although our wealthy can pay a private provider for extra benefits, we should be proud that every New Zealander takes for granted our first-world healthcare. How civilised not to have a completely privatised health system.

In any event, Prime Minister John Key and his party would have to sell the power and water companies, the rail, Air New Zealand and Kiwibank before they even considered moving on health.

Hey, wait a minute ...

- Herald on Sunday

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