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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Progressives must get out in front of the battle to preserve the biggest expansion of the social safety net in decades.

It’s been 100 years since ideological conservatives joined with doctors and insurance companies to kill the first movement in the United States for what was then called “compulsory health care.” Now, on the eve of their epic loss, those who deeply hate the idea that we have a collective responsibility to care for each other are desperately trying to stop history’s clock.

Beneath the tested rhetoric from opponents like the Heritage Foundation and Texas senator Ted Cruz about a government takeover, or Obamacare killing jobs and the economy, we can find expressions of the driving force behind the right’s obsession. One telling quote is from Missouri State Senator Rob Shaaf, who declared, “We can’t afford everything we do now, let alone provide free medical care to able-bodied adults.” Another is the proud statement from Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, who told me in a debate on Obamacare at the FDR Library, “I only care about me and my family.”

These celebrations of extreme individualism are bald expressions of the “47 percent of Americans are takers” ideology that has become the driving fixation of Republicans, with the latest example being the vote in the House to deny food stamps to 4 million people because they are unemployed.

The right most fears the establishment of another new program based on our common humanity. With her gift for sarcasm, New York Times columnist Gail Collins captured the irony of the Republican’s desperation to stop Obamacare before it starts: “The new health care law is going to be terrible, wreaking havoc on American families, ruining their lives. And they are going to love it so much they will never have the self-control necessary to give it up.”

If this is a defining moment for the right, it is also for the left. As Jonathan Chait wrote this week, in a great retrospective on Republican opposition to the ACA, “The transformative potential of Obamacare is not a conservative hallucination.”

For all its faults, the Affordable Care Act is the biggest expansion in half a century of the progressive belief that we all do better when we all do better. Almost 50 years ago, Medicare was greeted by Ronald Reagan — then a mouthpiece for the American Medical Association —  as a foot in the door to a totalitarian takeover. The right has long understood how high the American view of the role of government would be lifted if people came to rely on government for something as essential to a person’s well-being as health care.

The battleground now shifts to how the public perceives the law’s impact. I would like to believe that Ted Cruz was right about this, at least, when he told The Daily Caller, “President Obama wants to get as many Americans addicted to the subsidies because he knows that in modern times, no major entitlement has ever been implemented and then unwound.”

However, the lesson of the past three years is that the rhetoric has been more powerful than the reality. The most telling data is that the age group that has most definitively benefited from the Affordable Care Act, seniors, has the highest disapproval rating of the law. Thanks to the ACA, some 6 million seniors have received free preventive care under Medicare and 6.3 million people on Medicare saved over $6.1 billion on prescriptions. Still, the relentless attack messages aimed at seniors, starting with the death panel lies during the legislative debate on the law and accelerating in the 2010 election, have taken their toll.

On its face, opposing Obamacare should not be a winning electoral issue in 2014, if only because it will actually affect so few people. Several million people will get health coverage and very little else will change. But we can be certain that the right will continue to blame every established long-term trend in health care and the workforce — rising premiums, higher deductibles, fewer people getting health coverage at work — on the ACA.

The implementation of the ACA will also give its opponents new ammunition. Not just from the inevitable glitches in signing people up, made worse by Republican sabotage in many states, but from the law’s biggest shortcoming: While millions will gain access to affordable coverage for the first time, others will be asked to pay more than they can afford or pay a fine.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • 4sanity4all

    I am a senior. My friends and I are looking forward eagerly to the implementation of Obamacare. Those of us who are not yet old enough for Medicare, and who are paying for our own insurance have plans with very high deductibles, because it is the only way we can afford insurance. Our prior conditions are excluded, that means we pay for all treatment relating to them, and those charges do not apply to our deductible. So, we pay for insurance that pays, usually, for nothing. And our medical care is all out of our own pocket. Believe me, we know that Obamacare will enable us to get the care we need at a much lower cost than we have been paying. I am beyond angry at the Republicans who are trying to delay it, defund it, and eliminate it. And I resent that they have been spreading lies and misinformation to their supporters, to get them on their side.

    • Annemb

      As another senior, thank you.


  • Eleanore Whitaker

    The GOP wants to impress upon the most naive in this country that healthcare should be unaffordable and inaccessible to all but the hot shots in the 1% league. This law is on the books 3 years now and already has shown to decrease the rate of healthcare inflationary costs by 4%. Americans of the lower and Middle Class are the ONLY ones today who pay for their own retirements and healthcare at the mercy of the whims of greedy men at the top. 2014 is going to flush the GOP further down the political toilet. No one in their right mind wants to return to the Bushian austerity. It’s time to move on and move on without GOP Tea Party thugs we will. It’s with them or without them. Their call.

    • Lucien

      You think 2014 is going to prove that?

    • Dominick Vila

      The premium rates being advertised by the insurance industry, after ACA is implemented on 10/1/13, are about half of what they are today for those who join the ACA exchanges. Premiums for low income individuals are expected to be as low as $11 a month. That’s one of the little secrets about ACA the GOP does not want to general public to hear.

  • Dominick Vila

    If the GOP seizes control of the Senate in 2014, ACA will be history within months, regardless of how most Americans feel about the new program by then. Improvements such as lower insurance premiums for those who join the ACA exchanges, access to preventive medicine to millions of Americans, lower RX cost, the elimination of the MEDICARE donut hole, while keeping the insurance industry solvent, will not be enough to convince the Tea Party zealots that it is time to stop.
    They are engaged in an ideological crusade that has absolutely nothing to do with cost effectiveness, lifestyle improvement, or moral considerations. Their goal is to deny a man they hate his place in history, and help those they depend on to fund their campaigns accumulate more wealth at the expense of the American public.

    • Annemb

      Thanks for a great post.


      How are you?

      • Dominick Vila

        I have been having a terrible time accessing the NM threads using Explorer. The fact that I had a little accident doing yard work did not help matters.

        • Annemb

          I’ve had problems with Explorer too. I’m now using Mozilla Firefox. It must be Cable T.V.’s browser. I’ve also used Google chrome. What if you use another browser to access NM?

          I’m sorry so to hear about your little accident. I hope you heal soon. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

          • Dominick Vila

            I installed the free version of Mozilla Firefox yesterday, and have not experienced any problems since then. The problem seems to be related to security-related incompatibility between the software used by The National Memo – and its sponsors – and the security filters used by Explorer.
            I recovered fully from an unexpected visit to the local ER. I’ll blame aging for the latest episode…
            Thank you for the get well wishes.

          • Annemb

            Good for you!

            For quite a while, I had the problem of being unable to comment on Alternet with Internet Explorer. Then I downloaded Google Chrome and was successful. However, I now mostly use Mozilla Firefox.

            I’m glad to hear that you’re fully recovered.

            It’s true, though, that our bodies do change as we age. (I still can’t used to it.) I’m in my late 70s and inching closer to 80 on my birthday this Tuesday – October 1st.

            Take care of yourself. I’ll still keep you in my prayers.


          • edwardw69

            I recently read this line: “I am a young man, trapped in an old man’s body, and I can’t remember when the hell that happened.”

          • edwardw69

            I am still using Windows 8, but this is the first time in a week I’ve been able to open the site.
            I have had a bad case of long-running scriptitis.

          • edwardw69

            Ah, NM has a note on the problem attached to the bottom of this article.

        • Annemb

          BTW. knowing my frustrations with the computer, my son just gave me this URL:

          Take care of yourself.

  • howa4x

    They are not going to repeal it once it gets going. If people start to enjoy lower premiums then they will revolt against the ones that are trying to take it away. This is why the fight is to stop it before it gets going. In 2014 the democrats need to stop running away from this and tell people what the alternative would be, which is a return to insurance company domination. Remember how it was? People dropped due to marginal health status, or denied insurance coverage so profits could stay in the 20% range. Prior to the enactment of the ACA, Wall st enjoyed a 20% ROI to investors and Obama care took that away. Tell the people how mostly all of the personal bankruptcies were due to unpaid medical bills. The republicans are fighting to keep Wall st healthy and Democrats are fighting to keep you healthy and that should be the campaign slogan. Let the republicans appeal to the dullards who vote against their own interest anyway and let the thinking people stop sitting on the sidelines and join the fight .

  • ralphkr

    I find it very interesting that so much is being said about the fine for not getting health insurance. In the first place that fine is no deterrent at all. It should be set at $1,800 for a single person to be a real incentive to get insurance instead of the current attitude of “I can’t afford insurance” and then we tax payers have to cover his medical bills if something bad happens (that way since that Socialist President Reagan made it illegal for ERs to refuse to treat those without money). It is as if you had a choice of either paying $1,800 to be exempt from speed limits or taking a chance and then having to pay a maximum of $95 per year when caught.

    As for those who can’t afford insurance I have noticed that many of them have plenty of money for expensive cars and home. A young neighbor of mine swears that he cannot afford health insurance (he only makes $80,000 a year) but he does have a new BMW. When I was working (30+ years ago) for less than $35K a year I paid $150 a month for health insurance and did not notice the expense (especially, considering the $90K in medical bills for my wife in under 6 months in 1981).

    If you happen to be wondering, I definitely am one of conservative’s “takers”. I do not get either SS or Medicare but get by very nicely on pension & investment income and pay from $12K to $20+K in Federal taxes. During Clinton years I paid well over $20K per year and my taxes dropped to $12K under Bush…That is the only advantage I have seen when a Republican is in charge…my income taxes drastically drop because my investment income drastically drops under Republican Presidents.