Local view: GOP has no alternative, and tries to kill health-care reform by cutting off moneyRepublicans in the U.S. House recently made their 37th attempt to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, or the ACA.
By: John Sedgwick, for the News Tribune
Republicans in the U.S. House recently made their 37th attempt to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, or the ACA. They now have spent 15 percent of their total legislative effort on jousting with that windmill. Meanwhile, Texas and 24 other states reaffirmed their refusal to expand Medicaid under ACA provisions, believing, apparently, it is better to leave people uninsured than to be seen supporting federal health-care reform. And Congress continued to not appropriate the money needed to prepare for the implementation of the law.
How can this level of opposition to health-care reform be explained in a nation where only 100 million of the 185 million adults younger than 65 have adequate employer-provided health coverage; where 55 million are uninsured and another 30 million are underinsured; where 80 percent of employers say they will continue to reduce coverage and pass costs on to workers; and where 51 million adults are financially hurt by health problems every year, ranging from damage to credit scores (32 million) to bankruptcy (4 million)?
In an editorial regarding the challenges St. Louis County and other local governments face with implementing federal health-care reform, the News Tribune opined that if the implementation doesn’t go well, leaders need to be “willing to fail fast and regroup to take a more effective approach.”
But there is no “more effective approach.” Even Republicans wouldn’t vote for the so-called “Republican alternatives.” Ross Douthat, the conservative writer for the New York Times, summed it up in a lengthy analysis, concluding that “after five years of debate in these issues, there still aren’t enough Republican lawmakers willing to take even the smallest steps toward putting these ideas to the test. This means that no matter how much of a bureaucratic nightmare the implementation of the current health-care law turns out to be, liberals at least have this ace in the hole: When it comes to health-care reform, there is still no politically realistic alternative to their approach.”
In other words, the only “Republican alternative” is simply blocking ACA in favor of maintaining the status quo.
There seems to be two reasons for that conservative position.
One is that a lot of folks benefit from the status quo. The amazing March 4 Time magazine article, “Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” told the tale of profitable nonprofits, highly paid executives, unnecessary care provided, outlandish pricing and more. This is an industry that spent $5.36 billion between 1998 and 2012 to lobby Congress. For that they got a Medicare Part D plan that actually forbade competitive bidding, and not one Republican voted for health-care reform. Apparently, you get what you pay for.
The second reason is an ideological belief that the ACA represents “socialized medicine” or a “takeover of the health-care system.” Despite being selected by Politifact as among its 2011 “lies of the year,” these kinds of statements get repeated by those who want to block reform.
As a matter of fact, we do have a “socialized medicine” system in the U.S. It’s called the Veterans Administration. We also have a single-payer system. It’s called Medicare. The ACA is neither. It is an actual free-
market system where consumers buy private coverage in an open market and can compare costs.
The implementation of federal health-care reform may turn out to be, as the News Tribune warned, “just a disaster.” That certainly seems to be the intent of Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.
But, ultimately, the Affordable Care Act will work. Versions of its concept already are working in Massachusetts and in Switzerland. The Swiss program is 20 years old and accomplished exactly what it was supposed to: It reduced costs and provided nearly universal coverage. We have no alternative plan.
So why is it so difficult? I guess that’s just where we are.
John Sedgwick of Duluth is a retired marketing director for Honeywell who is trained as a health-insurance counselor for senior citizens and who has volunteered to help seniors enroll for Medicare.