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Obamacare "A victory for common sense"

The United States Supreme Court has upheld a law that will make health insurance mandatory for Americans


Swiss media have welcomed as a victory for common sense the decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold the so-called “Obamacare” law. This will make it compulsory for all Americans to have health insurance.

Notably in Switzerland - which has a mandatory health insurance policy - commentators were also keen to describe the decision as a win for solidarity over neo-conservative ideals.

“By dividing the risk taken by health insurers among a larger number of insured, the Democrat administration has induced a philosophical rupture in a country where individualism is sacrosanct, by daring to speak to Americans about solidarity,” the Geneva-based Le Temps wrote on Friday.

“The Supreme Court took a courageous decision in the context of excessive politicisation [of the issue],” it added.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger and Bern’s Der Bund, in a syndicated editorial headlined “A victory for common sense”, charged that opponents of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform viewed health insurance as a commodity whose value was measured solely by the markets.

Had the Supreme Court struck down the law, it would have ruled in favour of “the jurisprudence of bad luck” – bad luck to be too poor to pay for health care, bad luck to get cancer and be ineligible to buy health insurance, the paper said.

“Above all, the verdict was a victory of reason and a rejection of an inhumane ideology of a libertarian-conservative character,” the paper wrote.

“There are moments in life which call for solidarity from others – illness is top of the list.”

Swiss model

Key to the American reform is that to ensure equal access, the government must step into an otherwise free-market scenario. In Switzerland, federal regulators determine what services a health insurance company must cover. Premiums are based on a person's age and residence. No one can be turned away or suffer high rates because of illness.

In Switzerland, about a third of the population cannot afford health insurance and the government subsidises them on a sliding scale.

In some instances, the Swiss system – along with European models of universal health care in general - has been held up as a model for the US. In 2009, officials from the Federal Health Office met representatives of the Obama administration who wanted to know more about how the health system in Switzerland worked.

Following the ruling on Thursday, former interior minister Ruth Dreifuss made an appearance on cable news network CNN to explain the system in Switzerland.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) pointed out that presently, some 50 million Americans – about one in six – do not have health insurance, while Le Temps noted that health care costs in the US amount to 17 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, a global record .

Election politics

Like other Swiss dailies, the NZZ too is supportive of the Court’s ruling, although it is more restrained in its editorial - pointing out the political pitfalls for Obama of the Court having converted into a tax the fine imposed on those who don’t take out health insurance.

The NZZ said the issue was now likely to dominate the US presidential election in November, with Republicans now having a chance to wrong-foot Obama on his pledge not to introduce new taxes.

“It is crucial that Washington now has an instrument in hand to introduce compulsory health insurance,” the NZZ said, noting that the elderly and the chronically ill would benefit most from the reform.

“The dream of the left in the United States to introduce a health insurance system which resembles that of other industrialised countries is now within reach. One problem remains… opinion polls show that Obama care is very unpopular,” said the NZZ.


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