Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Equal Treatment for All Social Classes?

Emblematic of the problems of income and healthcare inequality, an upper-class man boasts that his wealth will increase if Obamacare is repealed.
Emblematic of the problems of income and healthcare inequality, an upper-class man boasts that his wealth will increase if Obamacare is repealed.

 

Discrepancies in the treatment of the rich and poor have long been a hot topic in the United States, and more recently, this issue has manifested itself in the realm of healthcare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a “comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010” during Barack Obama’s Presidency and is supported emphatically by the Democratic Party (“Affordable Care Act (ACA) – HealthCare.gov Glossary”). The ACA provides many millions of previously uninsured Americans access to affordable healthcare. As Nancy Pelosi, former US Speaker of the House, said upon passage of the law, “Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans as a right, not a privilege” (Murray and Montgomery “House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without Republican Votes”). For almost a decade, thereafter, the Republican Party has adamantly opposed this legislation, derisively referring to it as “Obamacare” or “socialized medicine.” Some of the most vociferous opposition has come from the populist Tea Party that “loves Medicare but hates ‘Obamacare’” (Gerard “Why the Tea Party Loves Medicare but Hates Obamacare”). Ironically, many Obamacare detractors oppose the health care reform that is in their best interests. As of July 2017, a report in Newsweek noted that there have been “at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act” (Riotta “GOP Aims to Kill Obamacare Yet Again after Failing 70 Times”). Nevertheless, the ACA remains the law of the land. Even in the era of the Trump Presidency and the Republican-controlled House and Senate, majority of Americans have turned against efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare because doing so would provide significant tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans while removing healthcare coverage for millions of middle and lower-class citizens along with downstream detrimental effects (Alic “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). Monte Wolverton’s political cartoon, “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich,” takes a heavily sarcastic tone in addressing these disparities by utilizing an affluent appearing cartoon figure’s commentary to address the blatant inequities inherent in GOP efforts to do away with the ACA.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it was estimated that over 53 million Americans were living without healthcare coverage and millions more were underinsured due to the increasing price tag (Alic “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). In order to combat these alarming truths, the Affordable Care Act was passed on March 23, 2010, and under the law, more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans were granted healthcare coverage. ACA coverage is funded, in large part, through higher taxes on individuals making over $200,000 and couples making $250,00 in annual income such as the 3.8% investment income tax or .9% payroll tax (Horsley “GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years”).

By contrast, Republicans, through their various repeal-and-replace bills, hoped to redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars by providing large tax cuts to the wealthy. The aforementioned taxes on the upper class that were required for establishment of the ACA would be targeted for repeal. It has been estimated that this would result in cutting around $247 billion collectively, and, by 2020, it would save those making over $1 million in income about $15.9 billion (Drucker. “Wealthy Would Get Billions in Tax Cuts Under Obamacare Repeal Plan”).

In addition to the proposed beneficial tax cuts for those in the upper annual grossing bracket, only approximately 20% of the American population, the repeal-and-replace effort was estimated to cause 23 million Americans to lose their healthcare coverage by 2026 because of impending increases in the cost of insurance rates. For example, people with incomes up to the 150% poverty level who currently pay a $255 a-per month deductible under the Affordable Care Act would face a new deductible price tag of more than $6,000 (Michael “How Many People Will Die from the Republicans’ Obamacare Repeal Bills? Tens of Thousands per Year”). This grossly immense disparity in healthcare payments for the majority of the population would directly result from removing taxes imposed on the affluent. This raises questions about the true aims of the GOP’s various plans to repeal-and-replace Obamacare.

Whereas the Democratic Party tends to “rely more heavily on government intervention to influence the economy’s direction and keep the profit motive of businesses more at bay,” the Republican Party traditionally organizes its economic agenda as a “business friendly” approach that limits government economic regulations and avoids “restrictions that might seek to dimunize the pursuit of profits in favor of… healthcare benefits” (Fuhrmann “Republican and Democratic Approaches to Regulating the Economy”). Thus, Republicans approached their repeal-and-replace proposals from the perspective that the tax cuts not only would directly help the rich but also find their way to the lower classes through what is known as the “Trickle-Down Effect.” “Trickle-Down Economics” is an economic theory that promises economic growth through the practice of providing large benefits and tax breaks to the wealthy in the hopes that the wealth will be distributed down the social class ladder through the creation of new jobs and economic stimulus. When the theory was applied in the early 1960’s and 1980’s, however, those most negatively affected were middle to lower-class workers and small business owners due to their inability to compete with ever-growing corporations that actually hindered money, jobs, and other purported benefits from trickling down. In fact, “Trickle-Down economics” policies only facilitated the increasing gap between the poor and the rich (Wilson “Trickle-Down Theory”).

Wolverton’s political cartoon, “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich,” takes the stance of opposing the desired Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s proposed replacement schemes. The artist’s choice of character, a well-dressed, distinctly wealthy man, represents the wealthiest American’s as a whole. With his champagne and pet, the affluent character has isolated himself on a desert island, a reflection of the separation of the upper and lower-classes in the Unites States. Drinking champagne, an extravagance, he toasts the Republican’s proposed plan to replace the ACA. Through the character’s dialogue, especially the reference to wealth “trickling-down” so that “maybe” other social classes can afford health insurance, Wolverton asserts his opinion that the GOP-led-repeal-and-replace propositions are unfair.

The cartoonist underscores this fundamental unfairness by bolding the “good news” that by “repealing Obamacare” the “tax break” for the “wealthiest Americans” will “trickle down” to the “rest” us so that “then” perhaps we can afford “insurance.” The asterisk mark in Wolverton’s illustration points readers to the evidence: a 2017 report authored by Brandon Debot and published by the Center on Budge and Policy Priorities. In his analysis of the unbalanced tax breaks proposed by the GOP through repeal-and-replace of Obamacare, Debot and the CBPP estimate that the “400 highest-income taxpayers — whose incomes average more than $300 million a year — would get average tax cuts of at least $15 million a year each,” while the benefits for working families are seldom noted; in fact, the likelihood of primarily adverse effects is anticipated (Debot “Trump Tax Plan Would Give 400 Highest-Income Americans More Than $15 Million a Year in Tax Cuts”).

Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich” is reminiscent of the 1933 John Knott cartoon, “Regardless of Dress.” Both comics express concern about the unequal treatment of American citizens, especially inequities in their wealth and well-being, vis-à-vis the pressing economic issues of their respective times—i.e., the Great Recession and the Great Depression. In Wolverton’s case, he approaches the attempted repeal of “Obamacare” with a sarcastic tone. The artist juxtaposes the treatment of the rich and the poor, highlighting repeated attempts to, by, and for the wealthy to undermine ACA legislation aimed to directly assist poor individuals in gaining access to healthcare. Republican repeal-and-replace efforts, by contrast, would only indirectly aid the poor by “trickling down.” For the non-affluent, their access to healthcare would only occur if and when wealth generated from tax cuts for the rich gradually permeated down from the highest to the lowest classes. For his part, Knott also addressed the need for balanced and shared sacrifice as part of the New Deal. His illustration focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Economy Act of 1933, which cut millions of federal dollars from some programs receiving an unbalanced amount of aid in order to more equitably reallocate those funds to other groups in need (Knott “Regardless of Dress”).

“Roosevelt at Chicago,” and editorial that accompanied Knott’s political cartoon in the Dallas Morning News, provided a more in-depth explanation of Knott’s visual commentary on Roosevelt’s legislative actions for equal treatment to all American citizens. A precursory discussion of extreme inequities in wealth allocation in America then and now, the 1933 editorial explained FDR’s call for cutting unequal funding from banks and veterans and redistributing the money to other constituencies in need—a call for fairness that Wolverton echoed decades later (The Dallas Morning News “Roosevelt at Chicago,” Knott “Regardless of Dress,” Wolverton “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich”).

Both Wolverton’s and Knott’s cartoons shed light on economic inequality during the most trying economic times of the current and previous centuries. The contemporary comic mocks the GOP’s Trickle-Down economic agenda and its restrictive impact on healthcare access for ordinary Americans while the Depression-era drawing depicts Roosevelt’s direct, bottom-up approach to combating economic suffering and inequality by reallocating monetary assistance and jobs to those most in need. Together, the two illustrations not only highlight how those in power conceptualize wealth and equity but also how legislative policies affect average citizens.

Wolverton’s cartoon evokes humor through the satirism of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace proposal and views of healthcare being voiced in America during 2017. Its importance rings with majority of US citizens due to their social standing and the effect that may have on their access to affordable healthcare in the near future.

 

Works Cited

“Affordable Care Act (ACA) – HealthCare.gov Glossary.” HealthCare.gov,   www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-care-act/.

Alic, Margaret. “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. Vol. 6. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2015.p3866-3870.

Debot, Brandon. “Trump Tax Plan Would Give 400 Highest-Income Americans More Than $15 Million a Year in Tax Cuts.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11 Oct. 2017,             www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/trump-tax-plan-would-give-400-highest-income-  americans-more-than-15-million-a.

Drucker, Jesse. “Wealthy Would Get Billions in Tax Cuts Under Obamacare Repeal Plan.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/business/tax-cuts-affordable-care-act-repeal.html.

Fuhrmann, Ryan C. “Republican and Democratic Approaches to Regulating the Economy.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 18 May 2018,   www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/regulating-economy.asp.

Gerard, Leo. “Why the Tea Party Loves Medicare but Hates Obamacare.” Thousands of Garment Factory Workers Across Cambodia Are Fainting on the Job, inthesetimes.com/article/15732/the_tea_partys_misconception_of_medicare.

Hiltzik, Michael. “How Many People Will Die from the Republicans’ Obamacare Repeal Bills? Tens of Thousands per Year.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 June 2017,             www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-repeal-deaths-20170623-htmlstory.html.

Horsley, Scott. “GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years.” NPR, NPR, 4 May 2017, www.npr.org/2017/05/04/526923181/gop-health-care-bill-would-cut-about-765-billion-in-taxes-over-10-years.

Knott, John. “Regardless of Dress” The Dallas Morning News, 4 Oct. 1933.

Murray, Shailagh, and Lori Montgomery. “House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without    Republican Votes.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Mar. 2010,  www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/21/AR2010032100943.html.

Riotta, Chris. “GOP Aims to Kill Obamacare Yet Again after Failing 70 Times.” Newsweek, 29 July 2017, www.newsweek.com/gop-health-care-bill-repeal-and-replace-70-failed-attempts-643832.

“Roosevelt at Chicago.” The Dallas Morning News, 4 Oct. 1933.

“Trickle-Down Theory” Historical Encyclopedia of American Business. Ed. Richard L. Wilson. Vol. 3. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009.p872-873. Wolverton, Monte. “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich.” Cagle, 23 Jan. 2017, www.cagle.com/monte-            wolverton/2017/01/obamacare-repeal-good-for-the-rich.

Supreme Court Upholds ObamaCare

Signe Wilkinson for the Philadelphia Daily News published on June 29th, 2015, depicts two men rushing an injured and well-dressed elephant in a suit to an ambulance labeled “OBAMA CARE”.
Signe Wilkinson for the Philadelphia Daily News published on June 29th, 2015, depicts two men rushing an injured and well-dressed elephant in a suit to an ambulance labeled “OBAMA CARE”.

The political cartoon, Supreme Court Upholds ObamaCare, by Signe Wilkinson for the Philadelphia Daily News published on June 29th, 2015, depicts two men rushing an injured and well-dressed elephant in a suit to an ambulance labeled “OBAMA CARE”. One of the men can be seen to be carrying a gavel and wearing a robe, indicating he is a judge. The latter is seen wearing a suit and tie and can easily be identified as the current president at the time the cartoon was published, President Barack Obama. The judge in this scenario is a cartoon representation of the Chief of Justice of the time, John Roberts. The unconscious elephant being carried in the stretcher is representative of the Republican party, as the elephant is the symbol most associated with the Republicans. Wilkinson’s cartoon demonstrates the struggles ObamaCare faced against the Republican Party and the eventual defeat the Republicans experienced once the Act was ruled constitutional on more than one occasion despite the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal it at its inception.

The question of whether the United States should have a universal health-care system can be traced back to Harry S. Truman’s presidency in the mid 1940s. Truman proposed the idea of a universal healthcare system as he felt that it was an aspect that was not covered by the previous president, Franklin D Roosevelt, in his progressive New Deal legislation (Taylor). It was reintroduced in the early twentieth century and was revisited in the early 1990s during Bill Clinton’s first term as president. Claiming that it was one of his greatest goals, Clinton worked towards a health-care system, but was unable to obtain sufficient support to do so in his years as president. However, in the late 2000s, President Barack Obama built his presidential campaign to feature a health-care reform as its top priority. Elected as president in 2008 at a time when Democrats “controlled both houses of Congress,” Obama was successful at being able to gather the support needed in order to pass a health-care reform (“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”).

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, was drafted with the purpose of providing Americans with better healthcare opportunities. Complete with a “Patient Bill of Rights,” the Affordable Care Act works to protect patients from mistreatment at the hands of insurance companies. According to the Act, insurance companies can no longer deny a patient coverage due to preexisting conditions. Additionally, patients are now given the right to protest and request to appeal a coverage decision made by an insurance company if the patient believes it to be unjust. In order to make healthcare more accessible to the American public, a government website, Healthcare.gov, was made in 2014 to allow people to browse and pick from different insurance plans coverages that would be accommodating to their needs and income. With the implementation of these sections of ObamaCare, the Obama Administration and Democrats alike hoped to bring affordable healthcare coverage to those that were in need and could not afford it beforehand (“Affordable Care Act”).

Although the Democratic Party held more seats in Congress than the Republicans, they were met with strict opposition from Republicans, who agreed a health-care reform was necessary as the Republican candidate who ran against Obama in 2008, John McCain, also ran a campaign with a focus on health-care reform, but disagreed with Obama’s Affordable Care Act. There was much debate between the two parties as they could not reach an agreement when Obama called for the Democrats to unite and pass the law quickly. The debate in the Senate was so extreme they met on Christmas Eve in efforts to pass the bill for the first time since 1895 (“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). Obama successfully signed the Act as public law in March of 2010. However, the Republicans refused to admit defeat.

As soon as the act was passed, Republicans vowed to repeal it. Organizations and citizens called for the Supreme Court to review it, as they challenged the constitutionality of the act. The Court agreed to review the Act in 2011 and ruled most of the Act constitutional except for a provision that called for Medicare expansion (“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). In the following years up to 2016, ObamaCare was revised and saw over fifty repeal attempts by the house and the senate before it was taken to the Supreme Court for the last time in 2015 in the King v. Burwell case (“Supreme Court ObamaCare”). However, according to an msnbc article written by Steve Benen, the case saw even more attempts after the King v. Burwell case and saw upwards of 60 repeal attempts by February of 2016.

The Chief of the Justice, John Roberts, was the one to deliver the 6 to 3 decision of the Court on June 25th, 2015. Roberts “soberly” revealed that he was with the majority opinion in ruling the case constitutional (Vogue and Diamond). Roberts’ siding with the liberal wing of the court and swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised and angered conservatives for a second time since the first case in 2011 as he was a justice who was known for his conservative views as he was appointed to the Court by Republican President George W. Bush following the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2003 before becoming the Chief of Justice in 2005. Roberts had supported the constitutionality of ObamaCare the times it reached the Supreme Court, which angered most Republicans that sided with him on most issues (“John Roberts Biography”). This is ultimately what Wilkinson is poking fun at in his political cartoon as President Obama and John Roberts rush the Republican Party elephant into an ambulance labeled ObamaCare.

The opposition the Obama Administration met in their efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act can be compared to the opposition Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was up against when he fought to pass his New Deal legislations in an effort to mobilize the U.S. economy after The Great Depression of the 1930s. When Roosevelt took office in 1933, his administration spared no time in beginning to draft and implement laws that would benefit the economy. However, a great portion of Roosevelt’s New Deal was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions. FDR struggled to find ways to get the government involved in ways that were constitutional in the Court’s eyes, and was a battle he fought throughout his entire presidency. At one point, Roosevelt even tried to change the rules and regulations surrounding the tenure given to justices. The central idea around democracy is the existence and allowance for checks and balances between the different branches of government, ensuring that the constitution is upheld, but can also be a cause for conflict as it was in these two situations.

The injured elephant in Wilkinson’s cartoon represents the Republican Party’s failed attempts at striking down the Act, and the sense of betrayal Republicans felt in hearing Roberts’ verdict. Wilkinson’s mockery of the situation is extended through the use of irony in the cartoon as the Republican elephant is seen being carried into the ambulance that represents the exact Act they fought against incessantly in the years since its inception. Ultimately, the political cartoon is a satirical representation of the struggles experienced on both sides of the ACA battle of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

“Affordable Care Act.” Health and Wellness, edited by Miranda Herbert Ferrara and Michele P. LaMeau, Gale, 2015, pp. 213-218. Life and Career Skills Series Vol. 3. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3626900053&asid=a839c32d69a3950087068d49ee305873. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

 

Benen, Steve. “On Groundhog Day, Republicans Vote to Repeal ObamaCare.” The Maddow Blog. Web. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016, http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/groundhog-day-republicans-vote-repeal-obamacare

 

“John Roberts Biography.” Biography.com Editors. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016, http://www.biography.com/people/john-roberts-20681147

 

“King v. Burwell 576 U.S. ___ (2015).” supreme.justia.com, Accessed 15 Nov. 2016, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/576/14-114/

 

“Supreme Court ObamaCare | Ruling on ObamaCare.” obamacarefacts.com, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016, http://obamacarefacts.com/supreme-court-obamacare/

 

Taylor, Jerry W. “A Brief History on the Road to Healthcare Reform: From Truman to Obama.” beckershospitalreview.com, Web. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016, http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/news-analysis/a-brief-history-on-the-road-to-healthcare-reform-from-truman-to-obama.html

 

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, edited by Donna Batten, 3rd ed., vol. 2: Health Care to Travel, Gale, 2013, pp. 877-880. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX2760300181&asid=2479ea0abb5dd9387b350cefa7289042. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

 

Vogue, Ariane de and Diamond, Jeremy. “Supreme Court Saves ObamaCare.” CNN. 25 June 15. Web. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/25/politics/supreme-court-ruling-obamacare/