The debate over health care is much bigger than a specific piece of legislation, or even about the system that it governs and impacts. It’s a debate about values.
Nothing made that more clear than London’s Opening Ceremonies for their Olympic Games, which celebrated their National Health Service–not just the doctors, nurses and other workers (who were among the volunteers performing the sketch)–as the embodiment of Britain’s values, and commitment to one another.
Clearly this doesn’t mean the NHS doesn’t have it’s problems (in fact, some think the sketch was a metaphor for Prime Minister Cameron’s planned budget cuts to the beloved NHS), but it clearly is something Brits are proud of, as even conservative commentators agree.
We also should note that while the value of ensuring access to care is shared, the Affordable Care Act is dramatically different from the NHS. Beyond even a sinle-payer system, the NHS really is government-run health care, from the doctors and nurses to the hospitals. In contrast, the Affordable Care Act sets key standards and consumer protections to govern, and provides subsidies so people can afford, largely private health plans contracting with largely private providers. This both is the strength–allowing an easier transition from the current system–and the weakness, keeping some of the inefficiencies and inequities of our current system in place while abolishing and minimizing others. But it comes down to values. What did our health system, which left so many uninsured, and others struggling with bills, say about the US? And would we have ever celebrated it at an Olympics?