Obama! NO, YOU CAN’T

On January 2nd, 2011, Barack Obama signed into law a bill that would provide free health care to the first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York.

The Healthcare bill provides for a fund of USD 4.2 billion for the free health care to 9/11 responders, a portion of which is being raised by extending an increase in some categories of H-1B visa fee that would mainly affect Indian IT companies. It also imposes a two per cent levy on goods and services the US imports from certain developing countries, including India. An extension in increase in H-1B visa fee is estimated to cost Indian companies USD 200 million.

In signing this bill, Obama appears to have been single-mindedly driven by the desire to improve his sagging popularity ratings. The hype created during the elections was bound to fall flat one day and faced with the stark reality, Obama, has realized – it is easy to coin slogans like “Yes, we Can” but to convert the slogans into action is not that easy.

By creating an unnecessary linkage between the 9/11 Healthcare Bill and H-1B Visa, Obama appears to be more focused on playing to the domestic gallery than honestly addressing the problem of Heath care. Recovering USD 200 M through H1-B visa out of the total expenditure of USD 4.3 B, is more of a tokenism than a funding solution.

Obama, or for that matter any of his predecessors, clearly lack the political will and courage to tackle the rot in US Healthcare sector. The real problem behind the unusual high cost of US Healthcare is the nexus between private health insurance companies and healthcare providers. The performance incentives in the private sector boost the expenditure in a commercialized context. Invariably expensive drugs and procedures are prescribed. Insurance companies provide health cover to the young, the employed and the rich, and avoid those who are elderly, unemployed and poor. There is a cozy relationship between the insured, the insurance company and the healthcare provider. For the same treatment, an uninsured person would be charged almost three times as compared to the charges for an insured person.

The United States spends a greater share of its wealth on health care than any other nation. Yet 22 developed countries have longer life expectancy at birth and 25 have lower infant mortality rates. This clearly proves that a large part of the money being spent on Healthcare is utterly non-productive.

Instead of candidly admitting the real problem and trying to demolish this unholy nexus, Obama has chosen to add insult to the injury by unnecessarily intervening into the natural flow of business. It is a well known fact that the affected IT Companies would pass on the cost of the hike in the H1B visa fee to their customers who would in turn pass it on the end users, which is the common man. Indirectly, the additional burden would have to be borne by the common man, whom Obama is desperately trying to woe. This is nothing short of cheating. It’s like first stealing someone’s money and offering it back to the same person as charity.

Through this bill, Obama, would also try to take the credit for discouraging outsourcing and creating more job opportunities for American citizens. Firstly, the whole idea defies simple business logic and secondly even if one assumes that the scheme would creates a few job – but at what cost? By burdening the common man with the cost of more expensive goods and services? It’s like giving with one hand and taking it back with another.

If funding of the so called Healthcare Reforms is an issue, why doesn’t Obama focus on reforming the US Tax System which undercharges the rich and exploits the common man? A man of the stature of Warren Buffet himself has admitted that he pays less tax than the lady who cleans his office adding that he is willing to pay more tax.

Why is it so important for Obama, the darling of the masses, to keep favoring the rich and not focus on improving the life of the common man? If he continues like this, the day is not far when people will start saying – “NO, HE CAN’T”.

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