The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the most significant piece of social legislation to be enacted into law since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Since the implementation of the ACA in October 2013, 17 million formerly uninsured Americans have obtained insurance coverage and the uninsured rate has dropped from 18% of the population to an all time low of just 9%. A poll conducted by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund in June 2015 found that 81 percent those enrolled in ObamaCare plans are satisfied with their health insurance.
Despite the success of the ACA (or maybe because of it), the GOP has continued it’s efforts to sabotage the implementation of this landmark health care plan. These sabotage efforts have been ongoing since the law began to more fully implemented in the latter half of 2013.
One of the most blatant and shameless attempts to wreck the ACA occurred shortly before the insurance exchanges went up in the fall of 2013. This Republican attempt to sabotage Obama Care involved the the intimidation of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA, and NASCAR by Senate Republican leaders. The Obama Administration contacted these sports leagues and asked them to help spread the word about the new law so that people would sign up for the health insurance exchanges.
In contacting these sports leagues, the Obama Administration was following the precedent set by then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who partnered up with the Boston Red Sox to inform Massachusetts residents about the benefits of Romney Care. (In 2005, the Bush Administration ran a similar campaign to let seniors know about the Medicare drug benefit.) However, the Senate Republican leaders thwarted a similar campaign from the Obama Administration and bullied the sports leagues into not cooperating with HHS in informing people about Obama Care.
Another attempt to damage the ACA and hurt the American people occurred when the GOP filed a lawsuit in King v. Burwell that challenged the subsidy system. If this lawsuit had “succeeded,”approximately 6.4 million people would have lost their tax credits and experienced an average increase of 255% in their health insurance premiums. What’s more, a “victory” by the Republicans in the King case would have resulted in 57,000 Nebraskans seeing their premiums soar and most likely would have forced these people to drop their coverage.
Another Republican attack on the ACA caused 113,000 Nebraskans and Iowans this year to lose health insurance coverage through CoOpportunity Health Insurance Company. This company was liquidated earlier this year because the Congress voted in December 2014 to to cut special risk-adjusting payments that CoOportunity was counting on receiving in 2015.
This cut in funding for CoOpportunity (and other health co-ops) occurred when House Republicans – at the eleventh hour – inserted an amendment aimed at cutting government funding for health co-ops into the must pass CRomnibus bill. (Passage of the CRomnibus prevented another government shutdown.) Senator Deb Fischer, and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith voted for the December 2014 CRomnibus bill that killed CoOpportunity and canceled insurance policies for thousands of their constituents.
Ben Sasse recently noticed that many of his constituents lost health insurance polices that they liked and he told the Omaha World Herald he was looking for answers regarding the collapse of CoOpportunity and health insurance co-ops in nine states. Nebraska’s junior U.S. Senator announced that he was going to block all of President Obama’s nominees to the Department of Health and Human Service until he receives answers. (Incidentally, at about the same time, Sasse said he was interested in reforming Congress and reducing the gridlock in D.C.)
If Senator Sasse wants answers regarding the cancellations of these insurance policies, all he has to do is meet with Fischer, Fortenberry and Smith – who voted to destroy the insurance co-ops. If Mr. Sasse is genuinely serious about reforming Congress, he shouldn’t be blocking qualified nominees who will be helping Nebraskans get better health care. Instead, he should form up a bi-partisan coalition to recommend improvements to the ACA. Sasse could easily find a willing partner by contacting Representative Brad Ashford.
The GOP is also sabotaging the ACA by blocking the Medicaid expansion in 20 states. This refusal to adopt the Medicaid expansion has caused an additional 5 million Americans to be uninsured and has caused insurance premiums in those states to be higher than those states that have adopted the Medicaid expansion.
Governor Pete Ricketts and a band of right wingers in the Unicameral have stopped a bi-partisan effort to adopt the Medicaid expansion here in Nebraska. This has prevented over 50,000 Nebraskans from obtaining insurance and has cost the state millions of dollars in federal revenues. Instead, our tax dollars are going to other states to finance their Medicaid expansions.
The Republicans will continue to sabotage the ACA and push for it’s repeal. Just last week, Fortenberry and Smith voted with their fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for something like the 56th time to repeal – but not replace – the ACA. The GOP wants to destroy the ACA because it has proven that government can actually help people and improve the quality of their lives.
As Democrats, we need to message the benefits and successes of the ACA. Many Americans are still ignorant of the law’s benefits and have only heard the negative propaganda about the ACA from the GOP and it’s allies in the right wing media. We need to be proud of the ACA and how it has helped millions of Americans. If we run away from it, the voters will agree with the GOP and conclude that the ACA is a failure. I’m confident that once the voters become more familiar with the ACA, they will support it.
Next year’s election will very important for the cause of health care reform. If the Democratic nominee is elected President, the ACA will probably be safe for the indefinite future. It will be almost impossible for any future GOP President and Congress to take away health care from millions of Americans.
On the state level, we need to elect more Democratic State Senators so we can break the right wing filibuster of the Medicaid expansion. The Nebraska Democratic Party has already recruited an outstanding group of candidates for the legislature. All of us need to contribute to these find candidates and canvas for them. Now let’s get it done!