Reprinted with permission from Uexpress.
As the video shows a spectrum of faces, the voiceover speaks earnestly of people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, cancer and epilepsy. Then, it castigates Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, a Republican who voted several times as a member of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“But in Congress, Ron DeSantis demanded that any new health law eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He’d let insurance companies deny them coverage,” the voiceover says. It is one of the most effective ads in support of Andrew Gillum, DeSantis’ Democratic rival.
In races across the country, Republicans have been thrown back on their heels by the increasing popularity of Obamacare, which they spent years trying to repeal. Now some — including Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate — are even insisting that they always supported some of Obamacare’s key provisions, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions. (Traditionally, insurance companies have shunned people with previous illnesses or stiffed them, charging them significantly higher premiums.)
These conservative politicians are taking a page from President Donald J. Trump, one of the bolder and more prolific liars in American political history. The president claims, incredibly, that he, too, supports protections for patients with previous illnesses or injuries. But in fact, Trump adopted the GOP pledge to repeal Obamacare as a foundation of his campaign, even though Obamacare extended protections for pre-existing conditions. And his administration has backed a lawsuit that jeopardizes those protections.
Modern history is quite clear about conservative ideology toward the social safety net: Conservatives want it to be stingy, not generous. That’s especially true of universal health care, which Republicans have fought since the administration of Democratic President Harry Truman. They have traditionally painted that essential piece of the social safety net as dangerous to liberty — a greased slope sliding right down into the degradation of totalitarianism. Never mind that every other industrialized nation provides universal health care to its citizens.
Back in 1961, Ronald Reagan, now the patron saint of modern conservatism, took up the cause. He was trying to stop the movement to provide universal health care to the elderly, a benefit that he dismissed as “socialized medicine.” In service to the American Medical Association, which also opposed the plan, Reagan made a recording in which he denounced the program that later became known as Medicare.
“From here it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism. … Pretty soon your son won’t decide, when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do,” Reagan warned.
But here’s the problem Republicans have run into: None of that turned out to be true. Most Americans want more generous government benefits, at least for their own households. They don’t want to return to a past when health insurance was nearly impossible to purchase in the private market for those with diabetes or hypertension. Most parents like to be able to extend their health insurance to their adult children. And those parents who are struggling to find help for a child with substance abuse problems want their health insurance to cover treatment — another critical provision of the Affordable Care Act.
When Obamacare passed in 2009 without a single Republican vote, the GOP launched a propaganda campaign to demonize it. They told outright lies about “death panels,” claiming bureaucrats would be empowered to deem certain patients unworthy of medical care. And for many years, their propaganda made the program unpopular.
Those lies began to wear thin, though, as the public began to enjoy the benefits that Obamacare extends. Earlier this year, a little less than a decade since its passage, 54 percent of Americans viewed the act favorably, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The same thing happened with Medicare, of course. By 1980, when he ran for president, Reagan had begun to backtrack, claiming that he had always supported generous health care benefits for the elderly. Republicans seem to understand that most Americans don’t agree with their policies in practice, so they conceal, they equivocate, they lie.
Their record on medical care, though, is hard to cover up. Anybody who has paid the slightest bit of attention knows that the real “death panels” are already in place for those who depend on the GOP for health insurance.
Cynthia Tucker’s syndicated column appears each Saturday.She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.