The so-called raging success and/or failure, depending on who you ask, of the Affordable Care Act passed by President Barack Obama is often stated as such without question in right-leaning and left-leaning echo chambers of the politisphere. The right has deemed it as a colossal deficiency or a strain on the United States, while the left has deemed it a progressive triumph for the very same country.
It goes without saying that all government operations have their fair share of faults, but the Affordable Care Act included a section beyond the normal text and into the fine print that, when implemented correctly, achieved what it set out for, but caused a reaction that any intellectual could have foreseen from a mile away.
The HospitalReadmission Reduction Program portion of our country’s healthcare alteration allowed the government to levy penalties on companies offering Obamacare policies who’s readmission rates soared after the passing of the ACA. A patient who is readmitted, classified as someone who is granted assistance within 30 days of the previous discharge of that very same hospital, will be denied service.
If the service is not denied and the company performs the necessary treatment, the federal government penalized said companies to an unaffordable degree. In just one year after the passing of this amendment, the New York City Presbyterian Hospital lost$1 million after readmitting patients with heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and lung infections.
This particular example is indicative of the ACA hitting the bull’s eye of the wrong target. While readmission rates have decreased, a clear correlation of mortality rates of citizens relying on Obamacare has increased at a troubling rate. Post-discharged patients with pneumonia and heart failure mortality rates steadily increased in the cited investigation monitoring patients over periods of time after admission. Death rates of those who were denied service raised “0.27% from period 1 to period 2”, then “0.49% from period 2 to period 3”, and finally “0.52% from period 3 to period 4”.
This is not to dismiss the successes of Obamacare, as to do so would be ignorant and refusing to acknowledge that the DNC has done something noteworthy in the past 5 years since the ACA’s passing. The uninsured rate declined from 17.3% in 2013 to 10.8% midway through the year of 2016, reported by a Gallup study. The decrease in the previously stated statistic rations out to roughly one million more people insured that the top 3 cities in the US combined (NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago). However, with that being said, nothing is ever perfect, most certainly when it comes to government-run entities and programs. When the effects of such mishap result in easily-preventable deaths, feedback and outcry of the public is necessary to demand change in Washington.
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The taste of sulfur from a barrage of fireworks collides with the familiar smell of barbecue as the nation commemorates the ol’ red white and blue. For many Americans, the 4th of July is seen as a way to celebrate the capstone of American accomplishment, and any elementary school kid could tell you that the United States of America gained its freedom against all odds by forcing colonial British forces from its land.
Who has time for royal weddings when you have Monday Night Football anyway?
The classic tale of a determined ragtag band of rebels defeating the most powerful military force in the world has influenced thousands across the globe. It has inspired subsequent revolutions, formed modern American culture, and of course, created the masterful cinematic universe of Star Wars (Let’s not talk about the last one).
The memory of early American revolutionaries is alive and well in American society, but their legacy might have died with the founding fathers. Let’s take a gander at what life would have been like for a family in colonial America:
Amanda is a young woman living in the coastal city of Boston during the height of the American Revolutionary War. Though previously privileged enough to receive post-secondary education, Amanda was forced to abandon her studies and her talents after the conflict between Imperial and Rebel forces escalated. With hostile forces occupying a portion of her hometown, and the infamous British fleet blockading Boston’s ports, life in the besieged city has slowly begun to fade. Rations are running low, and the community is forced to face the possibility of starving, while wandering a few blocks in the wrong direction could lead to a fate even worse than death.
If you thought life couldn’t seem any more bleak than it already is, you’re wrong.
Amanda’s brother was shot in the leg by British soldiers during a protest to lift the blockade, and for the past 64 days, Oliver has existed in a hellish state of unimaginable pain. Rebel forces have commandeered the majority of goods, and the merciless blockade prevents any significant aid from entering the dying city. Amanda and her family have no choice but to sit and watch Oliver writhe in excruciating agony before finally losing consciousness in what is the only remote escape from his pain.
While her brother sleeps, Amanda gathers bits of rubble and driftwood as a means of insulating her home from the bitter Atlantic winds. The war seems impossibly hopeless, and she doubts her brother will survive the winter. Every night, she watches the sun set on the silhouettes of British warships, as they strangle what’s left of her broken city.
Luckily for you and I, we know the ending to Amanda’s story. We know that the Continental Army would eventually manage to defeat British forces, and the rest is history, right?
Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege of such happy endings.
Although the above narrative is a perfectly probable allegory describing life in the midst of a great American conflict, it is modeled completely upon the true experiences of a family on the other side of the world.
You’re familiar with Amanda, but have you met Asmaa?
During her lifetime, Asmaa al-Housh has witnessed unimaginable amounts of destruction and despair, much like our fictional Amanda. The only difference?
Asmaa is from the Gaza Strip.
Formerly an outgoing photographer and active student at her local university, Asmaa was forced to abandon her aspirations after her brother, Omar, was shot in the leg by Israeli security forces while attending recent march protesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. As of May 30th, 2018, Israeli border patrols have killed at least 134 Palestinian protesters and injured 15,000 others during the protests. Among the dead and wounded are men, women, and children. Since 2007, no one has been allowed in or out of Gaza territory, and a merciless land, air, and sea blockade has prevented the transportation of significant medical supplies and basic goods.
Asmaa provides full time care for her twin brother, and for the past two months, you can almost always find her at his bedside. With local hospital facilities lacking staff, supplies, room, and tools, emergency services are quickly overwhelmed, and patients who are in need of critical care are often dismissed, or could face lengthy treatment times. Some can’t survive the wait.
The horrendous conditions of healthcare facilities merely reflect the state of being in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the besieged city are lucky to have four hours of electricity a day, and often resort to collecting driftwood or rubble as a means of heating water among the demolished ruins of Gaza neighborhoods. Blackouts are frequent, and uncertainty looms in every corner of human existence. Is the water clean? Where will we get our next meal? Will our house be bombed tonight? Will my son even make it home alive? These are the real questions that residents living in Gaza are forced to ask themselves every day under the Israeli occupation.
Few Palestinians within Gaza ever have the chance to have their voice heard beyond their own neighborhood. When asked what she would tell Americans about her homeland, Asmaa told me that few Americans can comprehend what it’s like to live there.
“Gaza is a prison. I have dreams to travel…but none of this is possible. I have great hope, but it is not always this way. When I hear my brother scream or see his wounds, I am very tired.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has proven to be one of the most divisive and dynamic disasters of modern history, and continues to be a polarizing political issue, both internationally and within the United States. Yet, amidst the heartbreaking violence and hopeless political upheaval, the victims of the conflict have largely been forgotten, and are seldom represented as anything more than a statistic. Israeli or Palestinian, these are human lives, and this is as much of a human issue than a political one.
So before you crack open a beer, or eat one of those generic Walmart sugar cookies with colored sprinkles, take a moment to recognize that the principles of freedom and self determination aren’t exclusively American. There are thousands of oppressed peoples around the world who will die before they see the fruits of their resistance, and there are children in Gaza who could teach an American a thing or two about “The rocket’s red glare”.
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One story getting little attention from the mainstream media is the story of Alfie Evans, a terminally ill toddler prevented from leaving Britain for medical treatment. Alfie has spent more than a year in a semi-vegetative state, suffering from a neurodegenerative disease. Over this span, he was kept alive in the critical care unit of Alder Hey Hospital by artificial ventilation. Unfortunately, since then, a conflict has ensued between the hospital and Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James.
As a result of Alfie’s unresponsiveness to active treatment, the hospital suggested that he be taken off life support. The parents disagreed, and his case was referred to the Family Division of the UK court, only for the court to rule in favor of the hospital. Alfie’s parents appealed the decision, only to lose that appeal and watch the Supreme Court dismiss the case.
Moreover, High Court Justice Anthony Hayden struck down the plan to take Alfie to Rome for medical treatment and stated that Alfie’s life support be ended on Monday morning.
In the hours after Alfie was taken off ventilation support, hospital staff refused to provide the toddler with ventilation and hydration. If Alfie’s parent were to do this, they would be charged with child abuse, but under Britain’s system of socialized medicine, it’s simply a hospital decision reinforced by a court ruling. An evil action doesn’t magically become permissible because individuals with power perform it.
It is nothing short of tragic for the life of a human being to be in the hands of someone other than oneself or one’s own family. Why Anthony Hayden gets to be the arbiter of the life of a toddler is beyond my understanding. Haden is a human being no nobler than Alfie’s parents, nor is the life of his child the one being ruled upon. The incentives of the two parties are very different: if Hayden is wrong, he does not lose a beloved child and his judicial tenure will go on. On the other hand, the loss of a child is a heart-wrenching moment for any parent, and Alfie’s parents will bear a price should they choose the ‘wrong decision.’
I use the term wrong decision loosely, as it is the only reasonable decision offered thus far, and yet the most shunned. If Alfie is guaranteed to be knocking on death’s door, it makes little sense to strip the parents of any remaining comfort they can enjoy with their child and accelerate his demise by starving him of life necessities. It must be emphasized that Alfie Evans is breathing without life support as I am writing this, contra the opinions offered by his doctors.
For all the talk of a ‘right’ to healthcare in this country, it is surprising that there is not more concern over this issue. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, spent his campaign decrying the American medical care system for denying care to poor Americans because of an inability to pay but has failed to speak on Alfie being denied medical care due to the British government. Ideological consistency is lacking in today’s politics.
In a broader sense, Alfie’s case is one of many examples illustrating the destruction of parental sovereignty across a range of issues, education and healthcare in particular. Hardly has any evidence been put forth showing benefits of this trend. I like to think the Western world can do better for our children, but perhaps I am overly optimistic.
The underlying theme in all of this, that Alfie’s parents are prevented from even choosing their own child’s treatment plan while he is dying, is nothing short of state cruelty.The economist Thomas Sowell once said:
The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.
The great danger that Alfie Evans is dealing with, and one that must be stressed to Progressives who want the government to adopt a bigger role in these issues, is that when you allow the government to decide what you need, you inadvertently allow it to decide what you do not need.