|By Jay Kim
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s healthcare reform law passed by Congress in March 2010, drove U.S. politics into a frenzy. Conservatives are especially boiling with anger over the fact that it was Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, whose support for the healthcare reform law gave the key vote to the court’s decision.
Healthcare reform is a typical liberal policy that Democratic presidents have tried in vain to legislate for the past 75 years. It is well known that President Bill Clinton also sought healthcare reform as soon as he was elected, putting his wife Hillary Clinton in charge of the reform project without success. Risking his political life, Obama pushed his healthcare reform bill through Congress. As even the legal challenge against this law failed by this decision of the Supreme Court for the constitutionality of the law, the decision gave Obama a complete victory.
Then, what was the issue? This law contains a requirement that every American should have insurance or should pay $95 or 1 percent of annual income as an annual penalty. Conservatives claimed that this requirement was an invasion of individual freedom by the federal government. However, President Obama claimed that this individual mandate was a necessary requirement to prohibit insurance companies from rejecting people with “pre-existing conditions.’’ Finally, the Supreme Court sided with Obama. As the Republican presidential candidate, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney makes a campaign promise of repealing this law. Obama’s healthcare reform will certainly be a key issue of this election.
Statistically, a majority of Americans already have insurance through job or through individual purchase, and seniors over 65 and the poor are covered by Medicare and Medicaid provided by the government. Hence, about 17 million (5.5 percent of U.S. population) do not have insurance. These are the people who work for struggling small enterprises that cannot provide health insurance and who cannot afford the expensive cost of health insurance but whose incomes are not below the poverty level. With this reform, the government will provide subsidies for these people to buy insurance. The government will spend about $1.7 billion per year for these 17 million people.
First, Republicans claim that since taxing the rich will provide far from enough to pay for this, this will burden the whole nation. According to them, now is the time to give priority to investment in job creation, instead of big government welfare. Rather, the current private insurance system should be improved. And the government should reduce the cost of Medicaid by helping struggling small and medium businesses and creating employment.
Secondly, they claim that putting the healthcare system under the government’s control is inefficient and expands the role of government too much. They point out that a new government agency will be created for this policy and thousands of government employees will be hired only to make the government bigger and continue to increase spending unproductively.
The far right wing “Tea Party’’ faction has declared a war of sorts against Obama’s healthcare reform. It has raised tens of millions of dollars in a short period, and with this money it is conducting a nationwide campaign to sway congressional candidates, urging them to repeal the law if elected while threatening them with losing their seats by doing otherwise.
Obama’s healthcare reform gave an occasion for the Republican Party and Tea Party conservatives to unite, which is increasing the strength of conservatives rapidly. It has been pointed out that the strong union between the two has made Obama’s victory in this presidential election even harder, though he has won in policy.
It is hard to find conservatives in Korea. Where are they hiding? Conservatives are not able to say a word, nor are they seen anywhere, even when pro-North Korea proportional representatives basically deny the foundation of democracy of the Republic of Korea. They pour disparaging remarks on North Korean defectors who escaped there risking their lives, calling them traitors. In Korea, one cannot find the grim resolution of U.S. conservative groups to repeal Obama’s reform in the November election no matter what.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of Kim Chang Joon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).