Is ObamaCare Socialism or Socialized Healthcare?
ObamaCare isn’t “socialism“. Under ObamaCare we have a regulated private health care industry that uses a mix of public and private funding. This is best described as a “quasi-private” healthcare system, or more technically, “a quasi-private, regulated, free-market-based insurance and delivery system, that uses subsidization, regulation, and taxation (sort of a mash-up of capitalism, socialism, and corporatism)”.
This is different than the more common single payer system other countries use, or the more market-based system we used in America before Medicare and Medicaid were created by LBJ’s Social Security Amendments of 1965.
The main problem with boiling down American healthcare reform under the PPACA to buzzwords is that terms like socialism only broadly define a philosophical economic/political theory. American politics is much more complicated than this. Below we separate the facts from the myths, and the rhetoric from reality.The term “socialized medicine” has been thrown around for over a century, typically used by opponents of healthcare reform as a way of scaring people into standing against healthcare reform.
Myth: ObamaCare is Socialism
Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. ObamaCare is a law that regulates key parts of the same quasi-private and regulated healthcare system we had before the law was passed.
Under ObamaCare we have a regulated private health care industry with a mix of public and private funding. This is best described as a “quasi-private” healthcare system.
A pure “socialist” healthcare system would have total public funding and care (or would at least regulate every aspect of funding and care).
Even a single payer system isn’t “socialist” because single payer denotes public funding, not public delivery. In other words not only is the current system not “socialist”, but nothing we have ever really discussed in America, including the more left leaning single payer, is socialist.Want to learn more about what Socialism actually is? (NOTE: it’s about as far from a talking point as possible, enter the rabbit hole of political theory at your own risk.)
Insurance is Kind of Socialist In the First Place
The truth is insurance is “a collective group fund that mitigates individual risk” in the first place. This means insurance, be it private or publicly funded, is probably the most socialist thing about American healthcare. You could argue that using tax payer funded subsidies or regulations on private industry is “socialist”, but it would be much easier to simply argue that this is just part of our American brand of regulated capitalism.
What people tend to confuse socialism with communism: the idea that everyone is equal on every level and those who work harder shouldn’t be rewarded with “more”. In truth, socialism and communism are distinctly different.We shouldn’t lose sight of the idea that insurance is a group fund in the first place. No matter how you run that fund, it’s still a single group fund.
Socialism Versus Communism
People often confuse socialism with communism. Communism is more of what we don’t like in America, and what we don’t want. Communism is a collective ownership of everything, with complete government control, and the absence of social classes, states, and money.
Socialism on the other had is a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production. If we apply socialism to healthcare we get single payer (public fund, regulated private care), if we apply communism we would likely get state controlled fund and healthcare delivery system. This is the gist, they are two different things, socialism-lite has a proven track record with common goods like healthcare in other countries, communism has zero success stories so far throughout history.
To make life simple we won’t get into the philosophical ideas behind communism or the different types of communism, but rather just point out that in practice communism has been historically used to create an oligarchical system that was unlike anything we want for our American democracy. Meanwhile socialism, when applied to healthcare, is something most of the other western countries have already implemented without sacrificing their democracy or markets.
Suffice to say, communism is sort of like a radical socialism, and is pretty much the opposite of capitalism. If America is about a balance of powers then neither total free-market or communism should be on the table, but democratic socialism could be.
Right wing-ers in America like to bunch communism and socialism into the same group to attack different political views, but the truth is our brand of governing really just borrows ideas from all over the place to create something uniquely American. If it has a bunch of hyphens in it, like mixed-market-quasi-public funding and delivery, then its a good sign we are on the right track.Witch hunts are never cool. The more we split apart, the less we focus on the united factor of being American. The truth is rhetoric can be dangerous, this video shows just how dangerous rhetoric and fear can be.
Socialism Versus a Regulated Free-Market
Socialism is a philosophy, a regulated free-market is a completely different idea (and is something that is actually happening in America). A regulated free market is different than socialism because the primary goal is a free market and government (officials elected by the people, in America at least) only regulates when deemed necessary. Important things like money, climate, healthcare, labor laws, discrimination laws, etc are regulated and the rest is left to the free market. Socialism suggests that all things are regulated and controlled by the government and little to nothing is left to the free-market.
Because socialism can go “overboard” if left unchecked, when we discuss it in America we typically discuss it only for the common good (healthcare, education, etc) and then mix it with capitalism. So we could call something like this “Democratic socialism”. The idea that markets, democracy, and strong social programs can all co-exist side-by-side.
Ideally We the People Create Rules to Protect We the People
Ideological labels aside, the point of the Affordable Care Act (and most other like-minded laws) is to regulate private business to protect the majority.
Who wants to play a game without rules? Who wants to play a game where there are no winners? Not anyone we know. America is about nuanced solutions, not extremes. Just because we do something together as a society, doesn’t mean it’s “socialism”… especially when related to healthcare, education, and climate. These things affect all of us and all our families.
It can actually feel good to take on a little extra responsibility to know that 1 in 10 (ish) people you meet on the street now have access to affordable coverage for the first time.
Socialism Is Mostly Just Used as a Buzzword to Turn People Against any Progressive Idea
In the US “socialism” has been used as a buzz word by the right for at least 100 years now. The idea has been purposely lumped in with communism and turned into a dirty word in order to turn people away from any idea that leans to the left like Medicare, Medicaid, Unions, labor laws, ObamaCare, etc. Don’t confuse scary buzzwords with being a good person and taking care of your neighbor. And don’t jump on the “use socialism as a dirty word” band wagon without looking at the damage this term has done throughout US history. Remember it wasn’t long ago we were blacklisting “communists” based on fear over fact.
Myth: ObamaCare Subsidies are a Handout to Lazy people that Don’t Work
Marketplace subsides only help those with incomes between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. To have an income of 100% of the poverty level means your family works hard, contributes to society, and could probably use the extra help. Often people can find someone even in their own family who qualifies for cost assistance programs based on income, often someone you have respect for and don’t have the personal money laying around to take care of yourself.
|*Medicaid eligibility is different in states that did not expand Medicaid.
Federal Poverty Guidelines are different in Hawaii and Alaska.
*CSR Cost Sharing Reduction subsidy
*PTC or Premium Tax Credits
Also remember, subsidies are based on what you make in that year… not your lifetime. That means that you can do really well, and then need help ten years later because you got hurt or got laid off in a bad economy. The safety net helps people bounce back, the idea isn’t a net you throw over someone to keep them down, it’s supposed to catch them when they fall so they can get back up.
We could probably go on about why smart and fair rule sets are a good idea for anything from Dungeons and Dragons, to the economy, to football, to healthcare but really all we want to point out is that 1) the Affordable Care Act isn’t “socialism” and 2) the term “socialism” has been used to split our society part into warring factions for over a century and 3) “socialism” probably isn’t what you think it is in the first place.
Don’t get caught up in the rhetoric, flip your mental script and start looking at what the ACA gets right. If we come together as a people we can make a difference and ensure we are all participating in the conversation about how to do a better job at our American brand of quasi-capitalism. The more we get distracted, the more politicians pander, and the less reals solutions we see brought to the table.
At the end of the day if we call everything that favors people or uses regulations or taxes “socialist” we are going to have a long road ahead of us. Stay educated, stay away from talking points, and take a refresher on what the Affordable Care Act actually does and what other programs like single payer really would mean for America.