Now that the GOP House’s radical right has all but given up on defunding and/or delaying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) otherwise known as Obamacare (OC), what does the near future hold for this piece of legislation? There are no firm impressions at hand because much depends on how three matters sort themselves out.
FIRST, potential beneficiaries of OC have until mid-March of 2014 to sign up for one or another of the plans within it. In what numbers will they come forward? SECOND, can those same people get beyond the relentless lies about the ACA that have been foisted on the public by conservatives in and out of the federal government? THIRD, can already evident glitches in the program be resolved quickly enough so that the aforementioned potential beneficiaries won’t become so discouraged as to turn away all together? Both recent and past history may provide us with tentative answer to these questions.
Interest in OC is running at a fairly high level. At a recent local event designed to deliver information about the program, thousands turned out. Numbers are not yet available on how many folks actually signed up and that of course, is key. In a similar vein, polls last week revealed a seven point increase in the favorability rating of the Act. That is a good sign especially if the trend continues.
Let’s face it, the Obama administration has done a terrible job of selling the ACA, especially in continually allowing conservatives’ steady stream of lies to go UNanswered. There are no “death panels”. OC is NOT being forced on everyone; if you already have health insurance and like the doctors that go with it, keep them all. The Act is NOT a job-killer. Ninety-seven percent of small businesses are UNaffected by it because they employ less than 50 people. That’s important because it’s those small businesses that are the economy’s big job-creators. Finally, OC will NOT add to the deficit. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will decrease it by lowering national healthcare costs.
It’s safe to assume that the aforementioned glitches, now well-documented, will be worked out. The real issue here is how long will it take? It would help if the administration went public with regular updates on improvements and with information on the history of how other major government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare, Part-D were all plagued by the same sorts of difficulties, all of which were ironed out. The administration needs to preach patience.
Beyond all the foregoing, there is this: The GOP has no interest in healthcare reform and is therefore committed to seeing that the ACA fails. Between 2000 and 2006, Republicans had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency yet did nothing to deal with what was obvious; i.e. upward spiraling healthcare costs. Just as surely as conservatives opposed Social Security and Medicare, they are doing the same thing with OC, even to the point of using the same fear-mongering language (“creeping socialism”, your loss of “personal freedom”, it’s the “death of our American way of life”). This is patent nonsense!! Even with the institution of Social Security and Medicare, we have remained a firm Constitutional Republic. The success of OC will not change that or diminish it in any significant way.