Reprinted with permission from Creators.
It’s true. The Affordable Care Act was passed without a single Republican vote. Republicans repeatedly cite this fact as Obamacare’s original sin, a fatal flaw that justifies their efforts to dismantle the ACA.
But let’s set that record straight. Obamacare was a bipartisan plan. It just didn’t get a bipartisan vote.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the reforms weren’t some radical idea imported from outer space. They were modeled on a conservative blueprint for universal health coverage.
Obamacare had to die for a simple partisan reason: Barack Obama proposed it.
Recall the right-wing hysteria over “death panels” in the summer of idiocy, 2009. The charges centered on the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The board’s task was far more pedestrian — proposing ways to keep the growth of Medicare spending within target levels.
But even normally sober political voices came unhinged. “We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on Grandma,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told a town hall meeting.
PolitiFact named “death panels” the “Lie of the Year.”
In 2015, the Republican House voted to repeal the board. Rep. Paul Ryan accused the board of giving members the power to “ration care for our seniors.” Obama stopped the nonsense with a veto.
Ryan is now House speaker, and his bill to rip up Obamacare would leave guess-what in place. The Independent Payment Advisory Board.
A little Obamacare history. Obama said his inspiration for the ACA was the Massachusetts health plan promoted by Republican Mitt Romney as governor. Romney said he was inspired by the reforms mapped out by the conservative Heritage Foundation. The conservative think tank returned the compliment.
During the Romneycare signing ceremony at Boston’s Faneuil Hall in 2006, Heritage’s health care expert proclaimed, “The applause that you’ve given to your public officials here today is going to echo far beyond the hallowed halls of this historic place.”
And Obamacare? Heritage’s current president, former Sen. Jim DeMint, recently called it a “cancer” on our health care system.
What was conservative about Obamacare? It left the job of covering people in the federal and state exchanges to private insurers. Democrats even gave up on the idea of the “public option,” a government-run health plan to compete for customers.
A truly left-wing Obamacare might have gone the single-payer route, whereby the government picks up all medical bills. Less radically, Obamacare could have simply expanded Medicare to cover all Americans.
Either solution probably would have saved taxpayers money, provided the same quality of medical coverage and been far easier to understand than today’s Obamacare. But Obama and other Democrats erred in thinking the debate was about policies rather than raw politics and so offered compromise after compromise.
Obama wasted precious weeks courting a single Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine. Whether she was stringing him along or didn’t have the guts to disobey party orders remains unclear.
But it was Snowe who publicly fretted about government-controlled health care while simultaneously proposing that Americans be allowed to buy cheaper drugs in Canada. (It was apparently fine for a government to negotiate drug prices for Americans as long as it wasn’t their own.) This was not a happy time for Republican pragmatists.
The question today is whether Democrats should work with Republicans on these issues or copy their opposition to all that the other party proposes. If Republicans choose to fix the problems in Obamacare without destroying it, the answer should be yes. Otherwise, Democrats should stand back and let Republicans sink in their own mess.
It’s OK to say “no.” Just let the reason be policy, not party. The public’s sanity depends on it.