This is the conclusion of my two-part experimental series where I argue opposing sides of a single issue. The topic is Obamacare, and this week I make the case that we should keep it around.
There’s been a lot of talk about Obamacare since it really got up and running this year, and most of that talk has been very negative. It’s enough to make you wonder how this thing ever got passed, and why Congress doesn’t just throw in the towel and admit it’s a failure.
To answer that, we need to go back to 2009 (when the Democrats briefly controlled both houses of Congress) and try and remember what problems they were trying to address and why they thought the Affordable Care Act was a good way to address them.
No serious person can argue that our health care system didn’t have some major problems back then. Maybe the biggest problem was that unless you got health coverage through your employer or were independently wealthy it was very hard to find affordable insurance. It was just way too expensive for most Americans to afford the premiums for a decent health-care plan on the open market.
And remember, if someone shows up at a hospital and doesn’t have insurance, the hospital is bound by law to treat that person anyway. And who do you think makes up for the losses hospitals incur for treating the uninsured? You know those costs are passed along to you and me one way or another.
We all know that Obamacare is a big, complex program, but it’s fair to say that its main goal was to get as many people covered by a health insurance as possible. That’s where the impetus for Obamacare came from, but where did they come up with the plan they ended up implementing? Well, Democrats felt they learned a hard lesson during the Clinton years when a proposal for a virtual government takeover of the health-care industry went down in flames.
So this time they looked elsewhere for inspiration. This time they tapped ideas that came largely from ... wait for it ... Republicans.
Back In 1993, when “HillaryCare” was in the process of becoming a punch line, Republican Sen. John Chaffee introduced a bill called “Health Equity and Access Reform Today” (yes it spells HEART -- how cute) and it was supported by other party leaders of the time like Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Included in the plan were things like an individual mandate, vouchers for low-income people, a ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and a number of other things prominently featured in Obamacare. And we are probably all aware that Mitt Romney oversaw the implementation of a state plan when he was governor of Massachusetts that had many of those same features.
So when the president and his advisers were putting together their health-care reform package this time, they borrowed ideas that had enjoyed significant support from Republicans in the past. But now, of course, the GOP is dead set against it because it’s not their idea anymore, and because it is not currently polling very well, and because it’s an election year.
Do the Republicans have an alternative to the ACA, or do they want to return to the days of millions of Americans having no realistic options to get health coverage? Don’t expect them to address that on the campaign trail. Any alternative would come with its own baggage and its own detractors, and they see it as a better strategy to just throw stones at Obamacare.
The bottom line is the Affordable Care Act has not been around nearly long enough to fully evaluate it. A program that comprises as many sweeping changes as this one was bound to take time to get off the ground and adjustments are being made to it and will continue to be made going forward.
But let’s not kid ourselves -- we’re not going to tell the over 7 million Americans who have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare that we are going to go back to the way things were. It is an imperfect program that can and will be improved going forward, but it is blatant political pandering to suggest that it should (or even could) be completely repealed.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.