Bentley, a retired dermatologist, doesn’t like the bill. Of that there’s likely no dispute.
During his campaign against Democrat Ron Sparks, Bentley railed against the bill, his election-year rhetoric rarely slowing down. During televised debates, the good doctor called the bill “the worst piece of legislation to ever come out of Washington.”
Which is odd, when you consider some of the insidious legislation U.S. lawmakers have passed in the last 200-plus years. The worst piece of U.S. legislation? Ever? Hmm. Hard to compare a controversial-yet-worthwhile bill that will deliver health care to millions of uninsured Americans to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which, among other things, violated citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech. (That the Alien and Sedition Acts actually came out of Philadelphia doesn’t alter the point.)
Nevertheless, Bentley now is sending signals that he’s turned from campaigner — where fiery rhetoric rules the day — to politician who actually has to lead and work with those who don’t wholly subscribe to his philosophies.
If Alabamians listen closely, they might think the governor-elect is softening his tune — slightly — on the health-care law.
Last week, Bentley called the health-care reform bill “the law of the land” during his appearance at the state Legislature’s orientation session at the University of Alabama Law School. At the least, that’s better than being the public face of discontent about a landmark piece of legislation that may help define Obama’s presidential legacy.
In the larger sense, Bentley is well positioned to understand some of the nuances of the U.S. health-care system because of his medical experience. Though this editorial board doesn’t share Bentley’s views about the health-care reform bill, we don’t dispute his knowledge about the medical field.
That said, Bentley seems adamant that the state will establish its own health-insurance exchange program, possibly before the 2014 deadline that the health-care bill established. States don’t have to go their own way with exchanges; they have the option of going solo or using the incoming federal system.
Given Bentley’s position on the bill, and his Republican-themed beliefs about states’ rights, there should be no surprise that the doctor has chosen to take Alabama down this road.
Whether that’s the appropriate road to take depends on the details, something thus far the governor-elect and his team haven’t fully disclosed. A state-run exchange program that makes it harder for Alabamians to get health insurance would be a mistake.
Still, it’s odd to hear this governor-elect, so fiery with his vitriol against the health-care bill during the campaign, now say the federal government has “given us some flexibility” concerning the legislation.
It almost sounds as if he’s slightly softened his tone about the bill. But that’s hard, if not impossible, to believe.