“The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea.” That was President Obama at his press conference last Friday, commenting on the possibility that Republicans in Congress would shut us all down in the debt ceiling debate unless the Affordable Care Act is killed. Didn’t he get the memo? No idea is too bad for this Congress.
“The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment,” the president continued, “is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care… At least they used to say, ‘Well, we’re going to replace it with something better.’ There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better.”
Let’s review how we got here. To start with, the idea of requiring everyone to have health insurance (as we do with car insurance) was first a Republican idea. And don’t forget that Republicans had every opportunity but refused to help write this crucial legislation. Meanwhile, the problem of runaway health care costs persists — The New York Times’ recent series on the subject has pointed out a hip replacement in the United States, riddled with profiteering, can approach $80,000, while the same surgery in Belgium costs $14,000. Finally, the Supreme Court has ruled ACA to be legal, and the Congressional Budget Office has judged that it will cut the deficit. So far, it’s the best medicine we have come up with for what’s ailing us.
Many states (including Idaho) are dragging their feet out of ideological spite and inflicting more pain on their neediest citizens. Now a group called FreedomWorks is urging young Americans to burn their Obamacare cards and opt out. (Problem one: There is no such thing as an Obamacare card. Problem two: It’s all fun and games until that young person gets sick and turns out, you know, to need insurance.)
The Obamacare obsession has ground America to a halt — the sequester is cutting into our military readiness and social safety net, crumbling bridges continue crumbling, immigration remains unreformed, agricultural policy is in limbo. In time the facts will show one side to have been right and one side to have been wrong. The ACA either will get more Americans covered, start to rein in costs and put some sanity into our insane health care system, or it won’t.
History will record that when faced with one of the toughest economic challenges of our time, a shocking number of our leaders just walked on by — without a trace of the Samaritan’s mercy. When they finally did act, it was not to lend a hand; instead they have tried to stymie a solution ever since.