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Opinion: Affordable Care Act is not socialism
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A patient is wheeled into the Northeast Georgia Medical Center emergency room Monday, July 20, 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic is illustrating is the need for national health care, and Georgia is a prime example.

For years, much of rural Georgia has been underserved by the medical community. Nine counties, such as Webster, have no doctor. It is unacceptable that 64 counties have no pediatrician and 79 have no obstetrician/gynecologist. These are not just examples of being underserved, these are examples of not served at all. 

Since 2008, nine rural hospitals in Georgia have closed. Two of them, the Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert and the Northridge Medical Center in Commerce closed this October and COVID pushed them over the cliff. 

When a community loses its hospital, the financial impact extends far beyond the medical needs of the people. National and international businesses seeking places to locate have checklists of desired services an area must offer. Medical services are on those checklists, so when an area loses its hospitals, or has no doctors, future employment is lost. Employers go elsewhere.

Why point this out? 

In this nation, there is a misperception about national health care. Many call national health care socialism or a step to communism, and when they do that, they often mention Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

This demonstrates a lack of understanding about socialism. Socialism usually entails the government ownership of the means of production or the ability to provide services. Municipal water systems are a good example. 

The ACA is a government program but it is not socialism. Obamacare did not change the ownership of hospitals. Doctors and other medical professionals remained in private practice or continued to work at hospitals. Drug companies continued as for-profit businesses, as did medical device manufacturers. For-profit insurance companies continued to sell policies. 

None of that is socialism. 

What the ACA did was regulate commercial medical related enterprises. This is little different that the regulation of Georgia Power. 

I’m pointing this out because Georgia has a runoff election in January. The Republican Party is on record as being against the ACA. The administration supported the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Nov. 10 of this year to do away with the ACA. If those arguments are successful, over 20 million Americans will lose their medical insurance. 

Guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions will end. Parents will no longer be able to cover their young adult children until age 26. Premium subsidies based upon income will end and Medicaid eligibility expansion would be over, while annual or lifetime caps on coverage could be reinstated and that would increase bankruptcies based upon health care cost. 

If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, more rural hospitals will close, and more people will be medically unserved unless Congress can pass a replacement law that the Supreme Court will accept. 

The political party that supports national health care is the Democratic Party. 

Jimmy O’Neill

Cleveland

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