The right wing of the GOP has always been opposed to universal health coverage. They simply don’t believe it is a legitimate function of the government to spend taxpayer dollars to help the poor and the sick obtain health insurance. That philosophical hostility is based upon the radical right’s adherence to the immoral and arid philosophy of Ayn Rand – a fiction writer.
That hostility was evident when the GOP fiercely opposed President Bill Clinton’s universal health care bill in 1993-94. The Republicans told a series of lies and fabrications about the legislation in order to scare the American people to oppose it. During the George W. Bush Administration – when the GOP controlled the White House and the Congress for six years – the GOP did nothing when 8 million Americans lost their insurance coverage.
The GOP’s opposition to universal health coverage reached it’s apex during the Obama Administration. Even after President Obama introduced a bill based upon Romney’s reforms in Massachusetts, the GOP lied about it and refused to cooperate in any way, shape or form. It even reached the point where prominent Republicans told the bald faced lie that Obama Care included so-called “death panels” where people would have to beg for their lives in front of some federal tribunal.
After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the Republicans predicted a dystopian future that would be caused by more people getting insurance coverage. In 2010, John Boehner predicted the ACA would cause “Armageddon” and “ruin our country.” Three years later, Ben Sasse cynically prognosticated that the ACA would cause America to “cease to exist.”
As it turned out, the Repubican predictions of doom have proven to be wildly off the mark. Since the implementation of the ACA, 20 million additional Americans have been insured. Moreover, the uninsured rate has dropped from 18% to an all time low of 8.6%. In addition, pre-existing condition clauses and lifetime limits have been banned.
Most Republicans also predicted that the ACA would be a “job killer.” Once again, the Republicans couldn’t have been more wrong. Currently, the economy is growing 3.2%, unemployment is 4.6%, we have rising wages and 15.5 million private sector jobs have been added over the last 80 months. (You’re going to want to save this post for when Trump and his propaganda machine try to rewrite history.)
Despite these obvious successes, the Republicans plan to follow through on their plan to repeal and replace the ACA next year. There is talk among the Republicans that they plan to pass a repeal bill as early as the inauguration on January 20, 2017.
The problem for the Republicans is that replacing the ACA is a lot harder than it looks. The Republicans are now like the dog that caught the car. Health care policy is devishly complex and full of hidden traps. The Republicans are very good at opposing and demonizing but they are terrible at governing.
Incoming HHS Secretary Tom Price has a replacement plan on the shelf and ready to go. Price’s plan would sharply reduce subsidies for the purchase of insurance, end the insurance exchanges, cancel the Medicaid expansion, bring back pre-existing condition clauses and allow junk policies. Edwin Park, the vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the following about the Price plan: “It would likely leave many of the 20 million people losing coverage they now receive under the Affordable Care Act without health insurance and going without needed care.”
The Republicans on Capitol Hill are split on the consequences of repeal and replace. Representative Steve King (R-IA) is of the belief that Americans would be better off with the repeal of the ACA and no replacement plan. In 2010, then Representative Tom Price told President Obama that his plan would insure all Americans and wouldn’t cost anybody one thin dime.
The reality based Republicans in Washington have genuine trepdiation about repeal and replace and are offering up a cynical repeal and delay plan. Under this proposal, the ACA would be repealed in early 2017 and replacement would be put off until 2019. The Republicans would hold 20 million newly insured Americans hostage and hope that they could convince enough Democrats to sign off on one of their delusional replacement plans in the hopes of sharing the political blame when millions of Americans lose coverage.
The Democrats in Congress should reject the GOP’s cynical plan and apply the “Pottery Barn” rule to the GOP if they should kick millions off their insurance coverage. If GOP the breaks the health care system, they own it. That should be our positon going forward.
At the same time, we Democrats should offer up our own ACA improvement plan. We should propose more generous subsidies, a public or government option and the application of the anti-trust laws to the insurance and health care industries. We could insure more Americans and provide better control costs.
Let’s hope that there are least three reality based Republicans in the Senate who will get cold feet about kicking 20 million people off insurance and sending the health care industry into chaos. Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith have all voted numerous times to repeal the ACA. Those were easy votes since they knew President Obama would veto the bill. Now the stakes are much higher for the GOP since they will finally have to fulfill their eight year old promise to hold an up or down vote on a consensus ACA replacement bill.
Going forward, we need to tell Democratic members of Congress to hold firm and not fall for the GOP’s repeal and delay strategy. At the same time, we need to contact our own members of Congress in Nebraska and impress upon them the reality of repealing and then replacing the ACA with an inadequate plan. I know it will be a tough sell but we have to do it. Twenty million Americans are counting on us. Thanks for all that you do!