The Obama administration presented the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a victory for health care over the corporations and their profits. In fact, not only does the ACA maintain the profits of the big insurance and drug companies, but it was written for the Obama administration with the help of these very same companies.
If the goal of health care is to keep people healthy, the health care system in this country is broken. Forty-six million people, 15.4 percent of the country, have no medical coverage. For those who are currently working, one in five have no insurance. The U.S. spends over $7,000 per year per person on health care, nearly double what Canada, Austria, or France spend with their national health care plans. All that extra money isn’t going towards better care but towards the profits of companies in the health care industry.
The ACA was written to supposedly address this crisis, not by changing it, but by making it a law, ensuring even more profits for the health care industry, which spent over 380 million dollars to support the ACA. The health care companies have always been against any sort of national plan, or a “public option” in which tax dollars would pay for a basic health insurance program because any program like that would eliminate the privately-run health insurance programs and the billions of dollars in profits they create for the health care companies.
In the 1993, the Clinton administration proposed a health care reform bill similar to the ACA in that it required bosses to provide some sort of minimum coverage to their workforce, but it also proposed to increase funding to cover people who were too poor to afford insurance. But this was shot down by the pressure of the big health care companies because they claimed it regulated too much their ability to charge outrageous prices. Out of this debate, a proposal emerged from the right wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation: rather than increasing public funds for health insurance, individuals should be required by law to buy insurance. The insurance would be subject to minor regulations, but the health care companies profits would be further guaranteed.
In 2008, the Obama administration wrote the ACA in collaboration with all the major players in the health care industry, the drug and insurance companies, the major hospital chains, and lobbyists representing the largest employers in the country.
Essentially the bill is the same as the Heritage Foundation plan from the 1990s. Under the ACA, all individuals must either buy insurance, get it from their employer or pay a fine every year. Health care companies will be able to make billions more off of the millions of people who will now be forced to buy health insurance. The original plan proposed a so-called “public option” plan to compete with private insurance plans. But quickly the public plan was eliminated to protect the private insurance companies from competition. The ACA also imposed no price controls on prescription medications, guaranteeing that drug companies could continue to charge outrageous prices for prescription drugs.
Essentially, the ACA was designed to write the for-profit health care system into law, increase corporate profits, and to discourage people from demanding a health care system that would actually provide real health care coverage for all. The ACA wasn’t written to fix a broken system – it was written to ensure that the broken system would be kept in place. After all, from the standpoint of the health care industry, the system is working just fine for their profits.