Few values matter more to Americans than freedom. And now, as key provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect, America is becoming a freer country.
That's certainly how Katie R. Norvell sees it. The New York Times quotes this
33-year-old music therapist, who has been uninsured for three and a half years due to a pre-existing condition, as saying: "I feel a huge sense of relief. With coverage. I can be my best self. Health insurance won’t control my job choices.”
Katie Norvell is now more free to live the life she wants. And nothing could be more American than that.
For the past few years, the right has defined the Affordable Care Act as the biggest attack on freedom in a generation. In fact, though, Obamacare is a big step forward for freedom by helping people like Norvell do as they please. While the earlier landmark programs of Social Security and Medicare freed seniors from poverty, dependency on their children, or charity and gave Americans more life choices in old age, Obamacare will expand the personal horizons of every adult in their prime years.
Freedom is hard to achieve or experience if your life choices are curtailed by large forces outside your control. And that's been true for millions of people who are hindered from doing what they want because of health insurance choices. It's not just people like Norvell with pre-existing conditions. Ask anyone who is thinking of quitting a secure job to start their own business to name their top concerns and ensuring health coverage will be on their list.
America is supposed to be an entrepreneurial place where people can chart their own destiny via the free enterprise system. But our lousy health insurance system had deeply corroded that ideal. And even after Obamacare, it still does thanks to sky high prices for medical care that every other advanced country avoids by empowering government to dominate the healthcare marketplace.
Mythology aside, a higher percentage of Europeans are self employed than Americans. In a place like Denmark you can strike out to work for yourself without risking financial devastation due to health issues.
As I have often pointed out, nearly all the countries that are ranked as the most economically free by the Heritage Foundation or CATO have national health insurance systems.
It's true, of course, as the right argues, that Obamacare does impinge on aspects of American freedom. It imposes new rules and costs on some businesses and people to achieve greater security for others in our society. Yes, you're a little less free if the government tells you what benefits to offer to your employees or takes more of your wealth at tax time to subsidize health coverage for others or forces you to buy health insurance. Still, the net effect is more freedom for more people.
Progressives and Democrats rarely trumpet how the Affordable Care Act advances freedom, and so the right has largely dominated discussion of the linkage between this program and America's most defining value. FDR, who often invoked freedom to justify his liberal agenda, is surely rolling in his grave.
Freedom should be front and center of the narrative over health reform as progressives gear up for the next big fight on this front: Which is imposing more government control over the pricing and delivery of medical care. In effect, state power needs to be used to sharply curtail the ability of doctors, drugmakers, hospitals, and other players to charge Americans whatever they want. And that won't happen without a massive political brawl in which reforms that make ordinary people more free are again depicted as a socialist plot to make them less free.
If progressives want to win that fight, they'll need their own powerful language of freedom.