US Healthcare System
For generations, the United States has viewed health care within the realm of capitalism, not within the idea of social welfare. The vast majority of health care providers and programs are owned and operated by private businesses, though many are classified as non-profits. It was not until the Great Depression that, as part of the Social Security Act within the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began to push for a national health care system; he believed that, along with the basic necessities of food and shelter, all people deserved the right to be healthy. While other elements of the legislation were approved and made into law, the nationwide health care system was not.
In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton appointed his wife, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to spearhead efforts for a national health care system in the United States. While she was unsuccessful in her efforts, meeting significant political and economic resistance along the way, public support for such a system began to grow. Opponents often pointed to long wait times and inadequate delivery of services in countries with universal health care programs; proponents pointed to individuals being forced to declare bankruptcy and lose a lifetime’s worth of savings due to one medical emergency.
In 2010, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law. The goal was to ensure all citizens were guaranteed access to health care services, though it did result in many being forced to choose between paying health care premiums or a fee for not being insured. Benefits of this new law included the elimination of pre-existing conditions as a factor for denying insurance coverage, the provision of low- or no-cost birth control or reproductive health services for women, and fundamental changes in the delivery of health care in order to create better long-term outcomes for society as a whole. Though the law was not without its controversy, it has provided a significant number of Americans with clear benefits.