House Republicans are prepared to confront the very serious issue of data breaches to HeathCare.gov — breaches that have never occurred.
Why would Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) be hyping a problem that doesn’t exist? He could be trying to sow fear in the public in an effort to drive down enrollments in health insurance, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen has posited.
Or it could be simply that this is the best they’ve got to continue their never-ending siege on the effort to reform the United States’ broken, costly and cruel health care system.
Despite the GOP’s unprecedented and contemptible sabotage of Obamacare, the most successful attempt at undermining health care reform came from the Obama administration itself.
The flawed rollout of HealthCare.gov shook the public’s confidence in the Affordable Care Act more than any of the various holes the right tried to poke in the law. Of course, the fact that every Republican-led state in the union refused to set up a health care exchange — in hopes of destroying the law — compounded the crisis. But even Democratic-led states like Oregon and Maryland produced exchanges that failed to meet basic expectations.
It a took a screwup of historic magnitude to force the public’s attention on the law’s implementation. Still, even at the peak of the HealthCare.gov crisis, when it was being argued that the site would never work and might possibly suck President Obama inside it Tron-style, the public never supported repealing the law when presented with an opportunity to fix it. A majority of Americans has consistently been in favor of the law — or something more liberal.
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent outlined “The Three Stages of Obamacare Acceptance.” By his assessment, the GOP is in stage one with “a dim awareness that there might be some good elements in the law, and that the public might not support returning to the old system.” (That’s also known as “recognizing they have a real problem.”)
Here are five reasons that you should expect increasingly desperate stunts from Republicans as they continue doing their best to sabotage Obamacare.
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They Focused On Problems That Have Mostly Gone Away
By piling on the problems with HealthCare.gov and hyping the cancelations that dominated the news for most of November, the GOP helped drive down the president’s approval rating and make a mockery of the site.
And it also painted itself into a corner.
HealthCare.gov is working — not perfectly, but better all the time. And the millions of cancelations the GOP focused on to prove the president’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” claim false will likely adversely affect about 10,000 people.
They are real people who are being hurt by this policy but the Republicans’ problem is their history of silence and inaction for years as millions lost their health insurance and rates grew faster than they have since Obamacare became law.
Also, by focusing on cancelations, the GOP has severely limited what sort of Obamacare replacement they can propose. Several Republicans have argued that Republicans will coalesce around a proposal this year. Will it include a shift of the tax break for employers who provide insurance to a tax credit for individuals purchasing insurance, a move that could result in a tax increase and would likely trigger tens of millions of cancelations? Will they include state insurance exchanges like Obamacare, a conservative idea that has been embraced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)?
The GOP’s shortsightedness paid off in the short term. But unless they get another huge gift from the Obama administration, they’ve been boxed in by their best arguments.
AFP Photo/Karen Bleier
Repeal Isn’t An Option
But the GOP’s biggest problem is that January 1, 2014 has come and gone. The more than six million people who have gained coverage through the Obamacare exchanges have now joined the three million young adults now covered under their parents’ plans thanks to the health law.
Within weeks if not days, more than 10 million people will have coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Millions of them — those on Medicaid expansion and those with severe pre-existing conditions — would likely return to being uninsured if a repeal actually occurred.
“Cancer patient loses coverage” stories and the like would flood newspapers across the country.
Full repeal has never been a option in reality. The GOP owes its majority in part to running against Medicare cuts. Even if Republicans got rid of most of Obamacare, they would never repeal the closing of the Medicare donut hole without some sort of replacement. And once you start talking about replacing the law or possibly even doing better than it, the GOP’s solidarity crumbles.
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Repeal Is The Only Option
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) January 2, 2014
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the man who effectively tarred dozens of congressional Republicans with being Obamacare supporters by voting to keep the government open. Thus, when Congress returns to session, you can expect one if not several votes to repeal the law again.
These votes get vulnerable Democrats on record, feed the fundraising machine and are essentially meaningless until the point the GOP has the White House or veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.
Republicans had no fear of voting for dozens of repeals when it would have kicked kids with pre-existing conditions off their coverage, and they’ll have no such compunction now. But millions of Americans who now have care because of the law will feel the sting.
Also, since the law gives tax credits to those earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level, Democrats could start pointing out that voting for repeal wouldn’t just take insurance from millions, it’s a tax increase on the middle class.
Rejecting Medicaid Expansion Could Turn Red States Purple
Demographics isn’t destiny but Republicans are facing a real predicament in three states that have been key to their electoral path to the presidency since the era of Richard Nixon.
Georgia, North Carolina and Texas are all red states where the “coalition of the ascendant” that put President Obama in the White House twice is growing at a rate that could substantially shift voter registration with the next decade or two, if current trends continue.
All three states have rejected Medicaid expansion. Georgia has the fourth highest uninsured rate in the nation. Texas has the first.
Rejecting expansion costs these states jobs, lives and even threatens the survival of rural hospitals.
Democrats are running uniquely promising candidates for governor in both states. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has quickly become a star of the left. State Senator Jason Carter (D-Decatur) is the grandson of former Georgia governor and president of the United States Jimmy Carter. Davis currently trails in the polls and the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in two decades. Carter faces an incumbent.
In the worst-case scenario, both campaigns could serve as voter-registration drives for future elections. In the best case, the estimated 409,350 Georgians and the more than one million Texans being denied Medicaid coverage could sway the races to the Democrats.
Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr
They Have To Pretend That Obamacare Isn’t Helping Anyone
How do you insist that millions more Americans having health insurance is a bad thing?
Salon‘s Brian Beutler points out that the GOP’s “unwillingness to grapple with any Obamacare success stories is inflating a conservative misinformation bubble.”
Republicans will continually point to every problem with the law and the implementation of a massive set of reforms but when the obvious benefits are pointed out, they’ll cover their eyes, ears and mouths.
They’ll also trot out studies that show Medicaid doesn’t work or that it costs too much — even when those studies also show that people with coverage are more stable and happier than those without. And arguing that not having any insurance is preferable to insurance makes no sense after months of focusing on cancelations of policies that were often pretty crappy.
This strategy of complete denial has worked as the law grew the ranks of the insured by a few percentage points and helped control health care costs in a way that we haven’t seen since the creation of Medicaid. But when millions are clearly benefiting and millions more are recognizing that their insurance is only stronger because of the law, a party that seems out of touch with the middle class already may seem positively delusional.
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