Photo by Flickr user Birmingham Public Library (AL)/ Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user Birmingham Public Library (AL)/ Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user Birmingham Public Library (AL)/ Creative Commons

Many Americans have an inherent aversion to socialism or anything that remotely resembles a socialist political idea. They argue that the United States is and should be committed to free markets.

In a socialist nation, the government controls all means of production and distribution of goods ”“ and this often limits innovation and entrepreneurship.

Because the Affordable Care Act ”“ Obamacare””promises to provide access to health care to millions of uninsured Americans and also requires citizens to purchase health insurance, some people believe that it is “socialized medicine.” This could not be further from the truth. Those who believe that Obamacare is socialized medicine do not truly understand what socialized medicine is and base their assumptions on false information.

The term socialized medicine took hold during the cold war; it was meant to brand anyone advocating for universal access to health care as a communist. This phrase continues to be bandied about as the Affordable Care Act approaches a critical point in its implementation this October.

The reality is that Obamacare is not socialized medicine, as many opponents of this law like to argue. There are major flaws in their argument”” and it is important to note that most national healthcare systems in the world are not “socialized”.

Developed nations that have universal health care systems often offer high quality services at a reasonable cost using private physicians, private hospitals and private insurance plans. In essence, in most other countries with universal access, the health care providers compete for business. These are not features of a “socialist” health care system.

Plenty of competition
Obamacare aims to lower the costs of providing care in our health care system, while offering high quality services through the private sector. In California alone, more than 10 insurance plans will be competing for your business under our state exchange ”“ Covered California. Covered California is the online marketplace where California residents can purchase an affordable health insurance plan beginning October 1.

In practice, many Americans rather government-run health insurance systems. Our Medicare system covers about 50 million Americans ”“ one out of six. In this system, the government sets the rules, collects the premiums and pays the bills, though it does not employ providers. (Medi-Cal in California) is also a government-run health insurance system that provides 58 million Americans with access to care.

Although Medicare and Medicaid are not always efficient, millions of Americans benefit. They are among the most important health care resources for residents of communities throughout Los Angeles County, including Boyle Heights.

Many opponents of the Affordable Care Act argue that they do not want to be forced to purchase a health plan and worry that the government will dictate the kind of care that they will receive or not receive. These claims are completely false and uninformed.

Under Obamacare, the federal government cannot dictate what kind of treatment or care you will obtain at any health care organization. That is left up to you and your health care provider. Many states will be regulating their respective healthcare systems and resources, but no one should be denied care and the government will not pick and choose how you are treated when you are sick.

October 2013 will bring a new era for millions of Americans who lack health care access due to cost or pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Millions of low-income California residents will now have the opportunity to access affordable health plans, including Medi-Cal, through Covered California.

Cost savings likely
Our health care system is highly inefficient and hugely expensive. We now have an opportunity to curb some of these growing costs in order to save our health care system in the long-term. The cost of insurance may become lower over time as more people purchase insurance, spreading the risk over a large pool of people. In fact, it is very important that the younger and healthier segment of our communities sign up for insurance coverage because including them will help lower the costs of insurance over time.

The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is not as “socialized” as many opponents want you to believe. We should scrutinize the risk of not doing anything about fixing our health care system instead of arguing whether or not Obama Care is a socialist plan

Victor M. Peña, M.B.A., is a native and resident of Boyle Heights. He has more than eight years of experience working with healthcare organizations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties. He is a director of healthcare corporate initiatives with the American Cancer Society. He is also a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and National Forum for Latino Healthcare Executives.

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