The way that the Republican Party approached their attempt to reform health care in the country is the classic example of why so many people lose faith in politicians, throw their hands up in the air, and check out of the system in frustration. For years, these people put on a show passing legislation to repeal Obamacare. They passed a series of bills, and voted on them over and over again, while putting on quite the exhibition to demonstrate that they were serious about addressing the debacle that was Obamacare. During the entire time that they played out these theatrics, they knew that President Obama was never going to sign any of the bills they had passed to become law, but they could always go back to their constituents and say they tried to pass reform, but the President would not sign it.
It is easy to display bravado when there is nothing to prove, in fact; courage is really needed when there is risk involved, when something valuable is at stake. There was never anything to lose taking those bills they had passed to President Obama’s desk. During all of those years they refused to use Congress’s power of the purse to try and force the President’s hand. That definitely would have required courage, but they had no interest in going down that road, and so they never did. They promised that if the people elected a like-minded President they would be able to finally pass smart health care reform.
With the opportunity to effect change in a positive way with a President who promised to make healthcare reform a major part of his political agenda, the Republicans failed miserably to address the issue. The problem, from all reports is not just that they failed to pass any meaningful legislation in their attempt yesterday, but that the legislation itself was badly flawed. Though it addressed many of the problems in Obamacare, it did nothing to address the inevitable rising costs, it did nothing to increase competition among insurance companies in a free market, nor remove insurance out of the hands primarily of employers, and there are still many of the problematic Obamacare aspects in it. That is why some call it Obamacare 2.0 or Obamacare lite.
Why after so many years of railing against Obamacare would these politicians be not more prepared to address this important issue, and why would they be so adamant about pushing through this version that so many of their colleagues in their own party hate? According to many conservative pundits, the truth is that there are better versions of healthcare reform bills that were passed previously that they could have presented, and would have worked much better than version that they were trying to rush through, but those bills are more unpopular and would require leadership on their part to promote. They would require more work to convince the American people that they are better, they would require patience answering the questions, and addressing the worries of concerned Americans. In other words those bills would require more effort, and political will to pass.
Republicans are doing so many of the things that that they accused the Democrats of doing when they were rushing through Obamacare a few years ago. They seem to be rushing the bill through without much public debate, and in one of the more surreal statements you will ever hear, Republican Congressman Chris Collins said “In my district, right now there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it is we are doing, and once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain what’s in it.” Nancy Pelosi made a similar statement years ago and she was rightly ridiculed for saying that “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it,” but here is this Republican politician saying essentially the same thing without the same blow-back. This is just remarkable!
The bottom line is that the problems in healthcare must be addressed. Many of the changes necessary to fix it, and get it to the best system possible might be too radical to implement all at once because of the short term disruptions that they may cause to the system, but there are definitely better plans than what we have presently, and what Speaker Ryan and the President was proposing. Make no mistake about it, Obamacare is a disaster. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and there is no doubt that some have benefited from it, but the net effect of it has not been good.
People should not forget that in order to get Obamacare passed, one of the chief architects of the bill said a “lack of transparency was a huge political advantage” in passing Obamacare and that the “stupidity of the American voter or whatever, was really, really critical for the thing to pass.” Robert Reich, President Obama’s former Labor secretary said that to “reorganize the American health care system to be more amenable to treating sick people, young, particularly young healthy people are going to have to pay more.” He said “by the way, we are going to have to, if you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It’s too expensive. So we’re going to let you die. Also, I’m going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid… to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. But that means less innovation, and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market, which means you, are probably not going to live that much longer than your parents.” Ladies and gentlemen these are not the statements of some crazy right wingers, this was a formulator of Obamacare, and an official of the Obama administration making those statements.
America can certainly do better. The President, the Speaker and all those elected to represent the American people must put their personal political agendas aside and carefully address this issue.