2017 Issues   /   February 2017

“A living dog is better than a dead lion.” – Ecclesiastes 9:4

By U.S. Medicine

Editor-In-Chief,
Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, MD,
COL (ret.), MC, USA

For many, including myself, the political upheaval that has characterized the 2016 campaign and election has been unsettling. Nevertheless, as I write this, we are poised for another bloodless radical change in the American government power structure, a routine achievement that makes our constitutional democracy the envy of the world. I understand the singular importance and significance of this quadrennial change in leadership, and I am proud to count myself among the protectors and defenders of the Constitution that gives rise to this feat of government magic.

Perhaps it is one of the unique attributes of being an American in that you can love and defend the constitutional system with your labors—some with their lives—but not necessarily agree with what that system engenders in either politicians or policy. Even more incredible is that the same Constitution that brings about these political changes protects the individual citizen’s right to protest those changes without fear of reprisal, possibly bringing about favorable change (to that individual’s way of thinking) during the next peaceful exchange of political power. As a student of human nature and history, I find these facts about our society baffling, when viewed through the egocentric and tyrannical lens of the human saga through time, and incredibly fortuitous if you are blessed to call yourself an American today. 

So with that settled, I would like to exercise my First Amendment right to express my concerns over recent congressional actions regarding the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare). Readers of this column will recall that I first commented on Obamacare in a November 2013 editorial1 as I sat in a hospital waiting room while my middle daughter underwent major surgery. Obamacare was new at the time and promised healthcare coverage for an additional 20 million Americans. Since unpaid medical bills are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcies in the United States, I could easily empathize with those going through the same emotional trauma of having a sick child and not having healthcare insurance.

Back in 2013, I could not have predicted (or hardly imagined) the political storms of 2016 or how Obamacare would become a right-wing example of excessive government regulation, as opposed to a plan for getting many uninsured Americans health insurance. So what happened with Obamacare during the past three years to engender such zeal by the current Congress to repeal the law as a first priority with the new administration?

There were plenty of missteps following the enactment of Obamacare into law, with the disastrous Affordable Care Act sign-up website being one of the most visible. To state the Obama administration botched this vital program element would be a classic understatement, and this error certainly did not inspire confidence in the American public or Congress to the new plan. Notwithstanding this miserable start, the fact today is that fewer than 9% of Americans remain uninsured, and an estimated 20 million Americans now have health insurance because of the law. Even more encouraging is that the slope of healthcare cost increases has been at a slower rate since establishment of the program than at any similar time period since 1959, when records of this type started to be collected.2


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