Well to some extent it has, regardless of how small a step, it was a step to greater equality in the United States. I am not necessarily the firmest believer in government intervention in regards to healthcare, but equally the position American citizens are put in due to the corporate greed and lobbying power of pharmaceutical and insurance companies is an equal evil.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care act did not go as far as Obama had wanted it to go. However, it has allowed millions of American cover that they otherwise would not have. One would hope that in the worlds super power economy, people do not have to make a tough decision between putting food on the table for the family or having health insurance.
Moreover, it did not lead to the fears of its opposition, as the cost of healthcare in real terms has not increased. The fear now however is that any foundation laid by the act will be undone by the future policy of the Obama administration, in that the specific protection for the Pharmaceutical lobby.
Stiglitz has pointed out the case of how India was forced to take up patent law in 2005, due to the competition Indian pharmaceutical companies were bringing to drug production, and in that the western pharmaceutical lobby’s fears that competition from the generic market. In the 1970s India abolished pharmaceutical patents, and this lead to an industry, which would be capable of providing some degree of healthcare in the developing world.
The Obama administration is seeking a bi-lateral trade deal with India that will ultimately secure the position of the pharmaceutical companies. Critically, along with Obamacare, it is clear that there needs to be an overriding framework that ensures that care and medicine is affordable. Stiglitz argues that this is not an unintentional outcome of the trade deal, but rather an explicit element of US trade policy. Thus, we come back sadly to a trade off between the US and its desire to keep domestic jobs, and protect a well-lobbied industry.
The argument that the rigorous American patent system is ensuring profits for innovation and development is becoming worn out. Stiglitz gives the example of Hepatitis-C treatment, which in India goes for $1,000 per treatment with profitability, but in the U.S. for $84,000. This chasm in prices shows the degree of monopoly power that the U.S. government grants in the healthcare industry, and this bi-lateral trade agreement will only reinforce this if India strengthens its patent laws.
So it is increasingly clear that healthcare in the United States can be approached from a more critical angle, rather than still trying to force an act through that lobbyists call communist, but your rational person would call equitable.