In 1883, Bismarck’s Germany approved the Health Insurance Bill that assured universal health care for German workers and their families, it was the first step given in an area pretty much forgotten by policy makers throughout the world. Bismarck’s intentions were far more political with this bill than merely a social justice issue; soldiers were coming back from wars outside its borders, jobless and tired, these men were the barrel of powder that might have exploded if there had not been social legislations that would ease their economic and social pains.
Many countries followed Germany’s example, most of them took small steps toward universal health care during the interbellum and then gave larger strides after the end of World War II. Great Britain, France, Scandinavia, Italy, the communist bloc. Latin America flirted with the idea of universal health care as early as the 1920’s, Argentina and specially Uruguay had approved several social policies that took care of their population’s health issues. In the 1940’s, Mexico’s post revolutionary government approved the creation of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, that provided health care for the Mexican workers and it families.
Despite the tendencies and pressures, and having flirted with the idea in the 1930’s, the USA never came close to a health care system like the one in Western Europe, let alone Latin America. And it was during Nixon’s presidency that the health care system became privatized and the HMO’s and private insurance companies began to raise.
For many years US citizens had complained about the mistreatments of this companies, their rejection to insure them due to a “preexisting condition”, their high maintenance costs, their penny-picking way of doing things. Insurance companies have been blamed over the years for being responsible of the death of people, by having been rejected from the ER. And although the majority of American citizens have an insurance, few of them will tell you they are satisfied with the service they receive.
During the Clinton presidency, a proposal to overhaul health care to everyone was set in the table, Hillary Rodham Clinton was on the front of a battle that would be heavily lost to lobbying firms, pharmaceutical companies and insurance giants. The health care problem rose and Barack Obama addressed it in the same way Clinton did almost two decades before. The response would be similar too.
Socialism, communism, the end of freedom, the death of the American way, the new Sweden, fascism, progressivism. I have not enough space nor memory to recall everything that was said around the presidential health care reform initiative or Obamacare for short. The mere impression of the extension of federal government scope of action, gave the people enough reason to go out on the streets and form Tea Party groups, pseudo-emulating the Bostonian revolutionary group that stood up against the UK prior to the American Revolution.
Right wing media attacked the proposal of health care reform by dubbing it as a crime against the very foundations of the US, a direct attack to their founding fathers, a threat to freedom, capitalism (or what has been left of it after the crisis), individualism and American values. Media personalities like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, embarked themselves into a crusade against the reform, praising the very free market options that had doomed millions of people to enormous debts and death as the best option to continue on, they claimed that fiscal responsibility came first to human needs and now after the passage of the bill, are inciting people to punish those progressivist traitors that jammed the bill down American’s throats.
It really makes no sense sometimes to read, listen or watch how many Americans believe that what they already have is the best option there is. I’ve experienced the benefits of Swedish and French health care systems, I know they are not flawless or perfect, however they do a re a better option since they are free to begin with, as a non European citizen I received the best treatment I could have without having spend a dime. I believe that health care is a fundamental human right thus it should be universal and free, that is why sometimes I find it hard to understand the American perspective on health care, how individualistic values and a free market tradition can be on the way of social justice (dubbed as a socialist value by the right wing media).
The United States of America has given an impressive step towards a fairer society, the way and methods employed to achieve the landmark legislation may have not been the right ones, the bill itself might not be perfect, the results might not be the desired but it is a better option that what it exists. Many of the people on Capitol Hill spent a lot, believe me, a lot of political capital on this bill, many of them will not come back after the November midterm elections, I just hope Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe do, but that is on a personal level.
It is sometimes hard to believe that the most powerful country in the world might still have a health care system that leaves so many behind, so many on the dark with their illnesses and so few with the dim light of hope of recovery. The reelection of Barack Obama in 2012 seems like a coin toss now, however he was brave and persistent to deliver a landmark bill that formers presidents like Clinton couldn’t. It is hard to understand the fuzz behind the protests of ant Obamacare since in Europe and Latin America, health care is as important and universal as jobs are, or security, or social equality. It is hard to understand the reasoning behind the ideas of the “fearmonger-in-fear” Glenn Beck, who calls socialism the cancer of the world and Sweden, Britain and France the worst patients. Despite all this, health care reform was passed and let’s hope for the best.
And well, at least we can be sure of one thing… Everyone in America should be better off now (of course not counting pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, fearmongers, lobbyists…)