Put simply, Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is not socialized healthcare. Although Obamacare was designed to allow access to affordable health insurance options for all Americans, it does not technically qualify as “socialized medicine”. Before you can understand why, though, you must first understand what socialized medicine is and how it differs fundamentally from our current system.
It’s important to preface this discussion by saying that Americans have long held a negative view of anything associated with the concept of socialism, stemming from the time of the Cold War. By labeling Obamacare as a socialist construct, opponents have attempted to confer upon the entire system a negative connotation.
However, Obamacare is not socialized healthcare, as we will explain. Further, socialized medicine is neither “bad” nor “good”, so to speak, but simply a different system of administering healthcare to members of a nation. Here is a breakdown of Obamacare as it relates to socialized healthcare.
What is Socialized Medicine?
The basic foundation of a system of socialized healthcare relies on allowing the same access to healthcare to everyone at the same low cost. This is accomplished through taxation intended to ensure that everyone using the system is paying in, as well as government control used to regulate standards and costs of common health services.
Health services are provided through government-run facilities, and many services are free. However, some services may require some payment on the part of patients, depending on the services or medications required. This all depends largely on the particular system, as every country has their own model.
Because the government is almost exclusively responsible for covering the costs of healthcare services, they are in a unique bargaining position, and capable of keeping costs low. The idea is that every citizen, regardless of financial status, has access to basic preventive and emergency care without necessarily having to worry about drowning in a mountain of debt as a result.
How Does Obamacare Differ from Socialized Healthcare?
Obamacare has certain provisions that could be said to lean toward the ideals of socialized medicine, if not necessarily the practices. However, it does not provide healthcare services, per say, but rather affordable health insurance coverage based on need.
On the one hand, Obamacare does require that every U.S. citizen maintain minimal health insurance coverage or face annual penalties. In addition, health insurance providers may no longer exclude patients due to pre-existing conditions, or charge more based on factors like gender. Further, Medicaid expansion tied into Obamacare seeks to provide free or low-cost services to typically underserved populations like children, pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled, and low-income individuals and families.
From this perspective, it’s not surprising that some opponents of Obamacare have linked this system of healthcare reform to socialized medicine. Unfortunately, Obamacare has limited power to reduce health costs in general. Under Medicare, Medicaid, and associated programs, some bargaining power to reduce costs does exist.
In general, however, the main power of Obamacare is to reduce the cost of health insurance coverage, not necessarily provide free or low-cost health services to every citizen.
Even so, competition remains among health insurance providers, as well as healthcare professionals and facilities. Therefore, while the system is helping to ensure that more Americans have access to needed coverage and healthcare, it is not, in fact, socialized medicine.