- Politics and Social Issues
Who's Afraid of "Obamacare?"
Republicans have been doggedly and unambiguously clear about their loathing for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by the joint action of both chambers of the United Sates Congress and signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama.
Much like their stance on taxes, they are so unified in this opposition that it has quickly become a rallying cry for conservative orthodoxy as well as the cornerstone of current GOP efforts to regain control of the US Senate and the White House this November.
Not a day passes without a venomous and unqualified reference to “Obamacare” almost as if it’s a portentous, incurable affliction! It is so frequently castigated, derided and bastardized that any unsuspecting, ill-informed person might be lulled into actually believing this characterization.
Even after key tenets of the law survived judicial scrutiny by the highest court in the land, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republican Congressional Leaders audaciously and irreverently voted for the 31st time to overturn this landmark legislation in the House of Representatives fully aware that, as was the case the previous 30 times, this effort would not amount to anything since it wouldn’t pass muster in the Senate.
What is certain is that in their haste to assail Obama and make good on their charge to render him a one-term president, Republicans seem to have forgotten two inconvenient facts. Not only was the law modeled after a similar Massachusetts law that the Republican nominee for this year’s presidential election personally shepherded when he was governor of the state; the law as written, was passed after months of wrangling but with some bi-partisan support (Democrats did not and could not have solitarily enacted it).
It is easy to brush these all aside as political theater in a hotly contested presidential election year. But while that may be true, it still does not negate the fact that it comes at a rather steep price.
How can anyone defend or justify the Republican Congressional Leaders’ choice to lavish this much political capital on such an inane wild goose chase at a time as inauspicious as this? How does one begin to reconcile this line of action with the promises they made to squarely focus on efforts to address the country’s economic doldrums a little more than two years ago when they regained effective control of the gavel of the House of Representatives? Can anyone really point to a single job that has been created as a direct consequence of any legislative action initiated or steered by Boehner and other members of the Republican Congressional Leadership?
That said, why are Republicans so petrified by "Obamacare?"
What could be so wrong about a law that among other things:
- bars insurance companies from considering pre-existing conditions and arbitrary gender considerations when making coverage decisions and requires them to not only cover all applicants but offer the same rates to them regardless of health status or gender
- makes it illegal for insurance companies to cancel your coverage if you get sick and requires them to cover your out-of-pocket costs for many proven preventive and screening services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, etc.
- eliminates lifetime and annual dollar limits imposed by insurance companies for essential health care services
- expands coverage to account for more than 30 million uninsured Americans
- provides tax credits to enable families earning less than four times the poverty line ($92,200 per year for a family of four) to secure coverage
- allows young adults to maintain coverage on their parent’s policies through age 26
- expands Medicaid eligibility to include those earning up to 133% of the poverty line
- over time, covers the “coverage gap” or “doughnut hole” that forces most senior citizens on Medicare to bear the full cost of life-saving prescription drugs once they’ve exceeded allowable coverage limits
- provides tax credits to help small business owners to provide coverage for their employees
- requires most adults not covered by an employer or government-sponsored insurance plan but capable of purchasing health insurance coverage to do so or pay a penalty
Generally-speaking, the arguments marshaled by the GOP coalition to justify their aversion for this law are twofold.
Oftentimes, references are made to the strain that they claim the provisions of the law would unavoidably bring on the economy either in the form of skyrocketing insurance premiums or shrinking job opportunities (as small businesses are supposedly compelled to rethink hiring decisions or forced out of business altogether).
However, most reports estimate that the law would have a neutral effect on more than 95% of small businesses in this country. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the law would, over time, have a net positive outcome on the economy (in the form of lower insurance premiums, future budget deficits and overall Medicare spending).
At other times, opponents of “Obamacare” begrudge the law for what they consider its draconian proclivities. Citing the law’s “mandate” clause, they claim that it encroaches on cherished civil liberties; they view the law’s requirement for compulsory coverage as a dangerous, precipitous overreach.
But one can’t help but question the true motive of this line of reasoning. It just seems fundamentally lacking in both rigor and logic.
What about this aspect of our lives makes it so sacrosanct from governmental regulation? Why, for instance, is it okay for the government to require us to buy car insurance, not exceed 65 mph on the freeway or take off our shoes and submit to all manner of body searches before boarding a plane, but somehow intensely objectionable for it to compel us to maintain health insurance coverage? Is this any more invasive than a plethora of other scenarios where governmental intervention is consensually deemed warranted and/or congenial?
I personally think that at a very base or elemental level, this contrived outrage over “Obamacare” is an extension of the trap which the GOP Leadership mindlessly worked itself into when it wholeheartedly adopted the manifesto of its ultra-right wing, Tea Party enthusiasts.
The debate isn’t really about Boehner, Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity or a host of other GOP opinion-molders. Neither does it have much to do with logic or reason.
Granted that defunding or undercutting “Obamacare” would serve big business’ interests (especially, those of the insurance industry), the politics of this interminable controversy is primarily about the tens of millions of average Americans who, feeling such visceral hatred toward President Obama, would do or say anything to ridicule, obviate or attempt to invalidate him; so much so that some of these individuals who, interestingly, sometimes also stand to benefit the most from the law astonishingly seem more vociferous in their opposition. In other words, they’d readily side against their own personal interest than do anything that remotely extends a modicum measure of acknowledgment or validation for Obama or any of his policy initiatives.