Liberal Column: Moral healthcare—many votes, single payer


In light of the Kavanaugh hearings and the new court case to take down the Affordable Care Act, I thought it could be encouraging to examine how close we have gotten to actually reaching our goals for policy and reform in America — despite the current silliness and hiccups.

For example, we seem to be finally coming close to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all, healthcare system via the American legislative process. And while this encouraging approach would seem to lend itself to following the legislature more than judicial actions, the sad reality is that those two things are becoming one.

As seen by the recently filed court case — pushed by Republican-led states like Texas — Republicans are asking the courts to do the dirty work for them. Instead of actually convincing their constituents and their colleagues that their policies are worthwhile, they are instead choosing to use the courts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a controversial and unpopular policy goal of the Republican Party.

While this tactic might have been more understandable when President Obama was in office or a chamber of Congress was held by the Democrats, let us not forget that Republicans currently control both chambers of Congress and the presidency. Instead of casting tough votes for an unpopular policy, they seek a back door for their agenda.

Despite these attempts, I still hold that the legislature should be the one legislating. It is through the legislative process that we change policy and make America better. In America, votes ought to be gained by persuasion, not by stacking courts. Now, this is to say nothing about the merits of the Affordable Care Act case; the courts will decide that. However, it is this tactic, using non-legislative bodies to effectively legislate, that is so underhanded and destructive to the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

In response to this Republican circumvention, Democrat-run states should be quick to finally pass effective healthcare reform. Not only will it be more politically expedient to pass single-payer healthcare state-by-state, it will show the ability for the party to unite around the common purpose of the common good and enact policy, something Republicans have rarely been able to do.

While Republicans ineffectively tear down the Affordable Care Act piece by piece, Democrat-run states ought to be constructing real solutions. In fact, not only should Democrat-run states do this, the path is already being paved. Single-payer healthcare is becoming mainstream in American politics, and it is being promoted by those seeking election in November. For example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Cynthia Nixon, proposed a plan for a single-payer healthcare system for New York. While she is unlikely to win her primary, it is a welcome shift in the right direction.

With this new direction toward a single-payer system, the American government will finally ensure healthcare for its citizens, as every government should. America has the duty to do much more than just protect the rights of life, liberty and property; to restrict the government’s role to merely protecting negative rights truncates the expectations we should have of government and even what our Church envisions.

We are told that the government is responsible “to make accessible … what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (CCC 1908). With not just political but also evangelical vigor, we should be pushing for that responsibility to be recognized and actualized.

Granted, America has tried to do her duty — by passing the buck to the free market — but this has not worked. As a result, America is the third highest spender on healthcare per capita — ranking just higher than Liberia and Tuvalu and just below the Marshall Islands and Sierra Leone — while providing that healthcare to fewer people — with over 20 percent of Americans not able to pay for needed care — without even being able to have oversight and effective management of the industry. While the free market has done well for consumer goods — especially those people do not need on a moment’s notice — it has not done well with more essential industries like healthcare.

While we may never achieve a perfect system, we must work for a better one. We can achieve a system where neither illness nor accident puts the average American — and his family — in danger of bankruptcy and death. If we truly desire the common good, do we want treatment for all people or the exclusion of the less well-off? Do we want a preferential option for the poor or utter inaccessibility?