On one side is head-slapping incompetence. The Obama administration has thoroughly botched the rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace exchanges. At the top of the chain is President Barack Obama, who has done a terrible job selling the benefits of his health-care reform law.
On the other side are soul-crushing rage and non-solutions from spiteful lawmakers. Republicans don’t like Obamacare. They root for its demise. They’ve aggressively resisted its implementation. (See Alabama, where its Republican governor denied health insurance to 300,000 residents in order to give Obamacare the back of his hand.)
A fresh reminder of all of the above came Wednesday.
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, came to Capitol Hill for a session with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Sebelius stated the obvious — she is “as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.”
Her boss, President Obama, travelled to Boston later Wednesday to apply a little spin to the situation. He appeared where Obamacare’s older sibling, Romneycare, was signed into law in 2006. The simple message: Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s health-care reform had a slow start but is working seven years later.
That’s a fine talking point and also a reminder that Obamacare was birthed in a right-wing think tank 24 years ago, championed by many high-profile conservatives in the 1990s and first implemented by a Republican governor who went on to win his party’s 2012 nomination for president.
In other words, why the fierce resistance to your own creation, Republicans?
This space would love to hear an answer instead of more snarling from the GOP.
House Republicans have voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare. And replace it with what, we ask? If allowed a follow-up, we’d wonder if these GOPers are prepared to defund Medicare and Medicaid, two other government-supported health care systems enjoyed by constituents in even the most far-right congressional districts?
Bitterness isn’t a plan. Defunding Obamacare — and denying coverage to millions of Americans who were previously uninsured — isn’t a strategy. Neither is grandstanding during a House committee meeting, something we saw plenty of Wednesday.
Let’s face some facts.
Approximately 15 percent of Americans lack health insurance. Before Obamacare, even more had coverage that was subpar and subject to burdensome conditions by insurers.
Because no one is willing to watch our fellow citizens die in the streets just because they can’t pay, these uninsured and under-insured wind up in hospital emergency rooms where the costs are tripled.
We all pay, and pay exorbitantly, for this kind of treatment. Regional Medical Center, for example, had more than $60 million in unpaid hospital expenses in 2012.
The best, most politically achievable result in the first two years of Obama’s presidency was the Affordable Care Act. It’s not perfect. However, it passed Congress, was duly signed by the U.S. president and survived a Supreme Court challenge. The 2012 re-election of Obama doomed any legitimate shot at its repeal.
A policy that’s survived this rocky path deserves better. It needs a loyal opposition (a.) willing to accept it as the law of the land and (b.) ready to set about smoothing its rough edges.
Obamacare also deserves a debut free of technical glitches and website malfunctions. Oh, to have a president who could effectively sell his own law would be nice, too.