In a celebratory statement about a federal appeals court ruling striking down the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, state Rep. Mike Ritze argued that so-called Obamacare “takes us away from a healthy and efficient free market health care system.”
But surely Ritze, a doctor, doesn’t believe the current health care system in this country and especially in Oklahoma is “healthy and efficient” or that focusing on insurance company profits will improve medical outcomes. If anything, the United State has demonstrated how much an unfettered free-market system that places profits above human suffering leads to wasteful spending and poor medical outcomes.
Yet one can understand Ritze’s political posturing here. He was the author, for example, of the state constitutional amendment recently passed here that would supposedly allow Oklahoma to opt out of the new federal law. Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow, must feel validated by the decision of the Appeals Court of the 11th Circuit, though he said he was disappointed “the ruling only extends to the individual insurance mandate rather than the entire bill.”
Under the individual mandate, people would be required to purchase health insurance. The government would also provide subsidies for low-income individuals and families.
But here are some facts Ritze surely has encountered in one frame or another: The United States ranks 37th in the world among countries in medical outcomes but spends more money that any other country on health care, according to the World Health Organization. In 2006, the country ranked 39th in the world for infant mortality. On a local level, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate is the sixth highest in the nation. The black infant mortality rate here is second highest in the country.
I could go on and fill this space with even more gloomy statistics from simple Google searches about the declining health care system in this country and Oklahoma, but the facts will never trump right-wing ideology. The truth is that the great health care divide in the country breaks down this way. Some of us, myself included, believe medical care should be a human right; others believe it shouldn’t be a human right.
Some pundits have even argued the recent ruling is not as significant as Ritze and others claim.. The respected Firedoglake blog makes this point about the ruling:
. . . Despite what some on the left and right are saying, the individual mandate is not essential to the overall function of the law.
It is both possible and legal to expand Medicaid, require guaranteed issue, establish new insurance regulations, and provide people with subsidies to buy insurance without a mandate. These policies can and have been put into effect in states without a mandate.
The U.S. Supreme Court will probably decide the fate of the new health care program, but it seems unlikely the court would invalidate the entire law. What would solve the issue is some type of public option for health coverage, which many other countries offer, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon given the current political milieu.