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Health Care Reform: On the Eve of an Historic Event

Published: 16.01.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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After a bitter struggle President Obama delivered on one of his main campaign promises, health care reform which will make health insurance available to the American people.

Up to then, nearly 50 million Americans were without health insurance. Many people did not have access to basic health care because they lacked insurance. The US also has the highest infant mortality in the western world, and life expectancy is lower than in most industrialized countries. On the other hand, if you pay your insurance, you are likely to get first class treatment as some of the finest hospitals in the world are American. In Norway we pay over the tax bill, and thus all Norwegians are guaranteed treatment.

US Health Reform 

Barack Obama’s Health Reform

Considering the Scandinavian concept of public health, it is hard to understand that the idea of free health care for all can be met with resistance and be heavily criticized by some members of the general public. Insurance companies have campaigned against what they see as an attack on their business.

This opposition is based on the fundamental American ideal of individualism. Obama’s opponents see his plan as a threat to the individual independence of Americans and has even been called “socialism.” Paradoxically, there is a large segment of low paid, middle class families that earn too much to qualify for this aid and too little to afford to buy their own insurance.

The Road Ahead

Nevertheless,  after a tough battle, Obama managed to get a compromise version of his health care reform passed. However, he had to give up the idea of a single payer system run by the government. What he did get was a law which requires people to obtain private health care insurance. What he did get was a law where no one can be denied insurance because they have an illness. Insurance companies will not be able terminate a person’s insurance because their illness is too costly. All new policies sold will cover children up to the age of 26, which is important as many young people cannot find a job which provides health insurance.

However the battle is not over. Republicans have said that they intend to repeal Obama’s health care reform law. This will not be possible as the Democrats control the Senate and as a last resort, Obama can veto any change in the law. However, what Republicans can try is to slow down the implementation of the various parts of the law which will be phased in over the next years. Whatever happens, there will be signs of a bitter struggle between the Democrats and Republicans.


  1. How would you define a welfare state?
  2. Why do you think the USA has such a high infant mortality rate?
  3. Why do you think Obama’s reform plan has been attacked by so many?
  4. Discuss some pros and cons of a society where the individual is supposed to be self-reliant in all respects.
  5. In Norway the state provides free health services for all. How is health care financed in Norway?
  6. Should rich Norwegians pay for their own health insurance so that we could spend more money on health care for those who are poor?
  7. How does the concept of individual health insurance fit with other aspects of American society? Is this the downside of the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness?

Further Research

  1. Discuss this overview of health spending per capita (per person). Does anything surprise you? health spendings
  2. Find statistics on US health insurance coverage here: US Health Insurance Coverage Which population groups are less likely to be insured? Why do you think this is the case?
  3. You probably know that “Democrats” and “Republicans” are American political parties. Find out more about the difference between them, for example when it comes to foreign policy. You could also try to compare the two American parties with some Norwegian political parties.