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Monday, April 22, 2024

Column: Care about health care

From March 26 to March 28, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the first arguments for and against President Obama’s health care law. The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress two years ago, drawing up a storm of controversy from the time of its initial inception to the casting of the final vote.

At the center of the controversy is the debate of whether the government, under Obama’s leadership, overstepped its constitutionally granted authority by forcing Americans to get health care coverage. Should the bill have even been on the House and Senate floors for votes in the first place? Other concerns include how much the overhaul would cost, and who would pay for it. The right claims that Obama is slowly turning the United States into the s-word. And there is nothing more heinous and despicable on this planet than socialism, of course.

You see, the United States is a very individualistic country. Individualism is embedded in its history and has influenced its evolution over the years. As a country, our philosophy is that people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and do it all on their own. The American dream is reserved for those who put in the work, for the self-made men and women. Understandably, after years of hard work, it’s hard to let someone take a portion of the fruits of your labor away from you. It’s even harder when that someone happens to be the government.

Some say the health care law is the antithesis of American ideals because it rewards people who, for whatever reason, can’t get health care on their own. If you can’t do something for yourself, then why is it anyone’s responsibility to do it for you? Why must taxpayers once again pick up the slack? Inequity is a fact of life, and attempting to reduce it can only lead to an increase in overall inefficiency.

It’s a mentality that runs counter to the one that I was raised with, the one that shapes the lens through which I view society today. When I start to think a little too highly of myself and my accomplishments, my mom wastes no time in reminding me that I would be nothing and nowhere without the hard work and sacrifice of herself and my father. (“You think are grown now, huh? Think again!”)

It’s the same with health care. People act like certain groups (i.e., the poor, the old, those with pre-existing conditions) only take from society without giving back, while others give and seem to get nothing in return. I don’t believe this is true. We are all dependent on each other. We are all needed to make the system work. Access to health care can be a matter of life and death. As a community, is it fair to say that only those who can afford it, or the ones with the most power, deserve the best chance at life?

According to the Institute of Medicine and the Census Bureau, an estimated 137,000 people died from 2000 to 2006 because they were uninsured. This happened in one of the richest countries in the world. These people shaped lives, contributed to the economy and had families and friends, and the self-proclaimed greatest nation on the planet let them down.

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in defending our personal liberties that we forget the bigger picture. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … we all want it, so why not help each other achieve that goal? The extremes of socialism are indeed counter-productive in a country like the United States. However, some of its principles can potentially be very beneficial, especially in times like these where inequity is gradually turning the “United” in United States into “Divided.”

It appears that the law may not get the majority votes it needs due to the individual mandate that requires all citizens to have some sort of health care. If the Supreme Court strikes it down due to purely legal concerns, I would understand. However, it would be sad to see such beneficial and much-needed reform be cast aside forever post-ruling due to partisan politics.

We’re talking about real people and real lives with real health concerns. Let’s not forget that.

Contact PAMELA NONGA NGUE at pamnonga@ucdavis.edu for more super insightful, super deep remarks on the current state of our world.

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