(Alternet) -- A common talking point among American exceptionalists is that the United States is blessed with one of the best health care systems in the world, and that residents of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand would all trade places with us if they only could. Sadly, their claim couldn't be further from the truth. While the U.S. does have its share of first-rate physicians, nurses, clinics and hospitals, gaining access to them remains an obstacle for millions of Americans. The reality is that the U.S. still lags behind the rest of the developed world—as well as some developing countries—when it comes to providing quality, affordable health care. And thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, approved by Republicans in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the United States' troubled health care system is likely to become that much worse.
When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act of 2010 into law, he realized that the U.S. was facing a brutal health insurance crisis. The ACA, for all its flaws, was a definite improvement over what the country had before. In 2009, a pre-Obamacare Harvard University study found that lack of health insurance was leading to roughly 45,000 preventable deaths annually in the U.S. and that uninsured Americans had a 40 percent higher chance of dying unnecessarily than Americans who had health insurance. Medical bankruptcies were rampant, even among Americans who thought they had comprehensive insurance through their jobs. Meanwhile the self-employed were uninsurable if they had a major preexisting condition, which could be anything from diabetes to asthma to high blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ACA reduced the number of Americans lacking health insurance from 48.6 million people in 2010 to 28.1 million in 2017. More than 20 million people have gained access to health care, and that number would be even higher if so many Republican-dominated states had not rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
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