Saturday, January 7, 2017

Healthcare:Getting what Republicans Wanted Scares the Hell out of Them

There's so much to say about what's going on in Washington these days, but I have so little appetite for saying it.

One inescapable question is what the Republicans think they're doing about health care.

Of course it's a scandal that we don't have some form of universal health care -- as most civilized countries do. 

The basic plan of the Affordable Health Care Act ("Obamacare") is a compromise.  It's actually modeled on something Massachusetts did under a Republican governor, and some Republicans had proposed such a plan at the federal level.

The fact that Republicans so violently opposed Obamacare when Obama proposed it testifies to their real purpose, to try to thwart and embarrass Obama in any way possible.  That was their first priority -- to make him a one-term president -- when one might have wished the country's well-being and security would be up there.

The fact that Republicans have screamed about repealing and replacing Obamacare for several years, but still have not managed to develop even the outlines of a different plan testifies eloquently that they were interested in the political issue -- "Obamacare Bad, Republicans Good!" -- and only secondarily with how good or bad Obamacare was for the country, let alone how to improve it.  Improving it was "giving in" to Obama.  So for years as faults in the law, which addressed a very complex and changing healthcare landscape, appeared, the Republicans had no appetite for making corrections, as one might have expected legislators to do. 

The Republicans are kind of like kids screaming for hours about something just to scream about it -- angry that their will has been thwarted, or that they don't control the universe, screaming about some specific thing as a symbol of all that, then ignoring the thing when someone finally gives it to them.  The prime imperative was to oppose Obama in everything.  So they vigorously opposed Obamacare.  Declined to improve it so they could scream about all its faults.  (Anything you fixed would be one less thing you could scream about.)  Declined to think about what they'd put in its place, because the point was to attack Obama, not to build the best healthcare plan we could. Certainly gave little thought to the actual human beings who had finally gotten healthcare only because of Obamacare.

Obamacare undoubtedly has problems.  It has been a major pain in the ass for my wife, who's younger than I am, and has added to our costs.  Dealing with an underfunded bureaucracy and having to provide the same form three times or tell people the same facts over and over hasn't helped.  On the other hand, Obamacare has been a life-changer for many.

The current debate among Republicans would be comical if it weren't potentially tragic for so many of our fellow citizens.  Republican legislators suddenly have the power they wanted; but since Obamacare has helped many real people, people from all political parties and perspectives, there's an obvious political cost to repealing it.  Polls show that despite the huge political and talk show campaign to paint Obamacare as not only flawed but an evil and dangerous conspiracy against our very way of life, most people do not want to see it repealed but would rather see it improved, or replaced by something better.  So the saner Republican legislators see that they can't just repeal it.

Further, some of the parts of Obamacare they most dislike are some of the most popular or essential.  Forcing healthy people like my wife, and particularly even younger people, to buy healthcare offends Republican ideology, but is essential to making the plan work.  Extending healthcare to young people living with their parents, and to people with pre-existing conditions, has saved lives and saved people from bankruptcy.  So those have to stay, too.

I'm no healthcare expert.  But I suspect there are improvements that could be made.  The fact that the Republicans can't seem to propose any tell us that either they're stupid or they're lazy -- and/or that healthcare in the U.S. is a difficult and complex problem to which Obamacare is basically a pretty good first step toward solving. 

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