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Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

The Republican Party is adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act of 2009 for the usual partisan reasons. Given a fractionated party, Republicans need to find some common ground, and anti-Obamacare rhetoric unites them, citing definite objections.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is united in supporting guaranteed universal health care. Although some would prefer a “single payer” system similar to Medicare, they unite behind Obamacare for many good reasons.

First, Obamacare represents the fulfillment of a dream that goes back a century, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, who in turn was influenced by social reforms in turn-of-the-century Germany. After failed efforts by Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, the success of Barack Obama’s number one domestic priority merits celebration on behalf of the yearning of the American people to achieve health as well as financial security from the fear that unexpected health costs will bankrupt the unlucky.

Second, universal health care has been tried successfully at the state level. Experiments in Hawaii and Massachusetts, on which Obamacare is based, have been lauded by residents in both states. When complicated and controversial legislative innovations prove themselves at the state level, the American people rarely move to those states but instead expect the federal government to practice good governance by adopting recognized reforms.

Third, the law is constitutional. The Supreme Court has spoken.

Perhaps most important, the cost of health care is skyrocketing. Something is needed to provide cost control. Free riders who use emergency room physicians as their primary care doctors pass the costs onto everyone else. Obamacare will end that practice and many others by enabling insurance companies to disallow excessive charges.

Another reason is that Obamacare is a compromise. Democrats would prefer “single payer.” Republicans insist on the status quo, though the Heritage Foundation proposed the idea at one time. Obamacare is between the two positions.

But there is a more profound moral reason for supporting Obamacare. The United States faces formidable challenges that cannot be met with old-fashioned rugged individualism. One is environmental degradation. A second is the continual loss of jobs due to technological innovations and outsourcing by transnational corporations. Citizens need to rethink values appropriate for earlier times and instead should consider their responsibility toward all the people of the United States .

Thus, Obamacare asks those in their 20s and 30s who are healthy today to finance costs for those who need affordable health care when they reach their 50s and 60s but do not yet qualify for Medicare. As the healthy age, get into accidents, or otherwise experience unexpected health challenges, they must consider their future as well. Obamacare asks Americans to stop thinking in terms of a “we” that excludes “others.”

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Nevertheless, there are predictions that Obamacare may not work as conceived. Implementation delays by the Obama administration support the view that the law is not ready for trial. But rather than scrapping the law because of its complexity and perhaps even its feasibility when provisions go into effect, the best way to deal with something new is to give it a try and make alterations later.

Opponents of Obamacare have been using scare tactics to mobilize opposition. The argument about “government control of health care” simply misrepresents the fact that the only role of government is to require everyone to have health insurance. If there is any “control of health care,” Obamacare asks the insurance industry to regulate health costs by restricting overcharging by health professionals while lowering the cost of premiums through competition between insurance providers.

False objections include the charge that thousands will lose their jobs due to Obamacare. The fact is that thousands are predicted to retire as soon as their health insurance is secure. In fact, that will open the door for thousands to replace them.

Still, the law is so complicated that the Obama administration should be faulted for pretending that there is no problem in communicating about the Affordable Care Act. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have failed to answer specific objections while opponents vilify the law. Not explaining Obamacare clearly and in depth fueled a resurgence of Republican voting in 2010, and Obama’s personal victory in 2012 did not spill over to bring about a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Even news media favorable to Obamacare have focused on the conflict between the two parties more than on answering foolish objections by opponents, point for point. Obama, who has failed to provide “teachable moments” along the way, has not learned his lesson.

Republicans hope that a government shutdown on October 1 will be enough to repeal or postpone implementation of Obamacare. However, if no budget is passed by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 30, then Obamacare will go into effect anyway on October 1.

So both the Democrats and the Republicans appear to want a temporary government shutdown so that Obamacare can go into effect. For Republicans, a shutdown means a de-funding of Obamacare. Based on Obama’s inability to refute false charges, Republicans count on the inability of Democrats to explain that the consequences of a shutdown will fall heaviest on those required to buy insurance that they cannot afford.

After October 1, Democrats believe, cash-strapped voters will blame Republicans for lacking the subsidies provided in the law to buy required health insurance.

michael haas

The real showdown, of course, will be in the 2014 elections for a new House of Representatives. Voters will then be fully aware that Republicans have wanted them to suffer, financially and healthwise.

Michael Haas

Monday, 30 September 2013