It’s easy to forget that a little more than a year ago, Michele Bachmann was leading the GOP presidential polls. The Republican Party was still—understandably, as it turns out—in its “anybody-but-Romney” phase for the 2012 elections, and Bachmann was one of those anybodys. Unlike the others, Bachmann committed no major gaffe to lose that lead; no revelation of old affairs, like Herman Cain, or inability to debate well, like Rick Perry. Instead, what seemed to put off GOP supporters was the same thing that’s always alarmed the rest of us about Michele Bachmann: She seemed just a little crazy.
She still does. This week marks the third anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act—better known as Obamacare—and the congresswoman took to the House floor to repeal the law now … before it kills.
“Let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens,” Bachmann said on the House floor. “Let’s not do that. Let’s love people. Let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.”
Now: There are a lot of complaints that can be reasonably made about Obamacare. It’s too complicated. The individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance feels like an imposition on American liberties. But it kills people?
No, not really.
The truth is this: The United States health system—to the extent there is a single system—is really expensive and does a poor job keeping people alive. Remember this?
Panelists were surprised at just how consistently Americans ended up at the bottom of the rankings. The United States had the second-highest death rate from the most common form of heart disease, the kind that causes heart attacks, and the second-highest death rate from lung disease, a legacy of high smoking rates in past decades. American adults also have the highest diabetes rates.
Youths fared no better. The United States has the highest infant mortality rate among these countries, and its young people have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and deaths from car crashes. Americans lose more years of life before age 50 to alcohol and drug abuse than people in any of the other countries.
Among 17 rich nations, then, the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy for men—and the second-lowest for women. And that’s before the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have really kicked in.
What the law does, of course, is expand health insurance to people who couldn’t previously get it. Young underemployed people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re better able to afford their own. Others aren’t being denied health benefits by insurance companies for pre-existing conditions. And, of course, millions of other uninsured people will soon have health insurance.
It’s complicated, but it’s a path to a better system for everyone, a system that should eventually help improve the overall health of the nation. It can certainly do no worse than the system it replaces—and it will almost certainly be less deadly to Americans as a whole, as a result.
So we can all agree with Michelle Bachmann: A system that results in widespread unnecessary deaths is a bad system. She’s just wrong about what system that happens to be.