Why, despite Obama’s belligerent attitude on Syria, he remains possibly the only leader who is willing to let a nation shut down on a point of making health care accessible to all. For that, respect.

I laugh at the jokes, with the rest of the sane world, about how ironic it is that Barack Obama is a Nobel Prize Winner. I fume over his itch to march into Syria. I even enjoyed Vladimir Putin's clearly over-the-top letter to the people of America. I think, with the warm fuzz-memory of a night up watching the first ever African American becoming POTUS, that he has since been a disappointment. And yet, to Obama, I feel the irresistible urge to doff a non-existent hat.

At the heart of the impasse that has sent the supposedly powerful United States government into this bizarre phase of shut down, and brought into public consciousness quaint words like furlough, is, as you might have figured out by now, Obama’s unwillingness to concede defunding or compromising provisions in his healthcare bill.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Affordable Care Act, or most appropriately, ObamaCare is all about increasing access to healthcare, by reducing costs, and increasing health insurance coverage, both in private and public sectors. It also aims at improving the quality of health care available to the citizens of the Big Apple. It is, according to pundits who know their health economics, the biggest overhaul of the country’s health care system, at least since Medicare and Medicaid( government sponsored health insurance programmes) began covering several groups of Americans.

Here’s what they themselves say it is all about:

“ObamaCare offers a number of new benefits, rights and protections including provisions that let young adults stay on their plan until 26, stop insurance companies from dropping you when you are sick or if you make an honest mistake on your application, prevent against gender discrimination, stop insurance companies from making unjustified rate hikes, do away with life-time and annual limits, give you the right to a rapid appeal of insurance company decisions, expand coverage to tens of millions, subsidize health insurance costs, and require all insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.”

Whoah! Insurers are mandated to cover people with pre-existing conditions. What a beaut!

Both Medicare and Medicaid will also benefit; some of the much needed reforms have been rolled into place with ObamaCare.

Medicare, which has been around for nearly 4 decades now allows “access to health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older and younger people with disabilities as well as people with end stage renal disease (Medicare.gov, 2012) and persons with Lou Gehrig’s disease”. Medicaid, on the other hand, is an insurance programme for people with poor resources (at a certain level, not very unlike Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance scheme, or Arogyashree in other states of India).

ObamaCare will significantly improve the eligibility and federal funding for Medicaid, we are told. It will also usher in the much-needed reforms to Medicare, reducing the costs, while simultaneously improving quality. The Act also hopes to control fraud and abuse, bring in stricter standards for providers, and penalties for defaulters. It will create an independent body that will, within Medicare, try to reduce costs, and this has instantly become controversial.

The House of Representatives led by the Republicans and the Senate led by the Democrats could not see eye to eye on the ObamaCare. While the Republicans pushed several resolutions to delay or defund ObamaCare, admirably the Democrats refused to back down. And sent the government into shut down. Now the ramifications of that on social and health care are many, but that’s another story. It is to be seen if the American public, who will benefit in good measure with ObamaCare, can force the Republicans to see the folly of their objections. Maybe it is time for a Tahrir Square gathering at the Times Square.

Friends who practice medicine in the United States are sure, “It will have to come through, never mind the Tea Party gang. Soon enough the people will make demands.”

The primary reason I will still stick to my position on Obama, is because I come from a country where the health component of the budget this year (2012-2013) was a staggering 0.34 per cent of the total budgetary expense. And if you consider that this came during a year when the Union Government ambitiously spoke of providing Universal Health Care, you will see the sorry absurdity of it all. P.M.Mathew argues lucidly in this article in the BusinessLine :

“To cater to the healthcare needs of the population, a minimum allocation of 5 per cent of GDP is necessary. The Government’s spending on the health sector is the lowest amongst the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations. Marginal increases in the budgetary allocation are inadequate to make any significant strides in the provision of healthcare.”

So, we can’t spend even five per cent of our gross domestic product on health care (it has never exceeded two per cent, currently, it stands at 1.2 per cent. The government has promised to hike to 2.5 per cent in the 12th Five Year Plan);

So, we don’t have men or women willing to make health care access and affordability a battle point;

So, we cannot expect these sterling leaders to cause a shut down over health care;

So, that’s where being obdurate about ObamaCare is a win;

So, that’s why, despite everything, for his stance on the Healthcare Act, if only for that, Barack Obama remains a leader I will irrelevantly vote for.

------------------------------------------------

If you want to read more about ObamaCare, check this out.