It’s no secret that I am a huge proponent of affordable health care for all Americans. It’s a belief that I’ve held since I was a child, and no, it’s not an ideological stance; it’s a belief borne based on what is simply a pragmatic need for the nation and its people. So suffice it to say that I am—outside of the knowledge that the fight against universally affordable health care is really a conflict of power between opposing parties—left scratching my head as to why individuals would be so vehemently opposed to such a laudable goal.
Obamacare. Socialism. And now job killing. There are just a few of the politically-charged pejoratives that opponents of health care overhaul use to slander the notion that all Americans should be covered by the best health care system in the world.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care for America Act (House bill - H.R. 3962) with their own act, the
Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R. 2). Without control of neither the Senate or White House, this act was a largely symbolic measure meant to play to those constituents who are on record as being vocally opposed to health care reform, and who supported last year’s Republican electoral trouncing of the Democrats as they swept into power in the House.
The sad part about this affair is that outside of ideology, the Republicans don’t have a leg to stand on. First, in order to have brought this endeavor to the floor of the one chamber of Congress they control, they had to ignore the findings of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Earlier this month the CBO, which calculates the projected cost of legislation, concluded that repealing the health care overhaul act would increase the federal budget deficit to the tune of some $230 billion dollars for the projected period between 2012 thru 2021 (http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/cbo-health-care-repeal-797015.html). Needless to say, political foes against health care reform have taken a “figures-lie-and-liars-figure” stance in discrediting these numbers. In fact, Speaker of the House John Boehner told reporters, "I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit” (naturally, any figures which opposition uses to justify its/their arguments are somehow “more accurate”).
The truth of the matter is that most analysts agree that health care reform does not “kill job” as claimed by opponents. In fact, the opposite is proves to be in evidence even now (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/jan/20/eric-cantor/health-care-law-job-killer-evidence-falls-short/). Just this month, Forbes magazine has published two articles which demonstrate how small businesses have already benefited from the health care reform act. Based on preliminary results, major insurance companies are reporting increases in small businesses offering health care to their employees due in part to tax cuts created by the new law What’s more, the fact that many private insurers are apparently increasing the number of clients they are serving, and that small businesses are taking advantage of the tax benefits in order to shore up the number of employees they offer health care to also kills the argument that the law is a slippery slope to the road to “socialism’ (http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/01/06/more-small-businesses-offering-health-care-to-employees-thanks-to-obamacare/). This fear mongering slandering of health care reform is predicated on the argument by opponents that mandating that Americans purchase health care insurance “un-Constitutional.” History would disagree.
In 1798, the 5th Congress of the United States drafted and passed the Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen. Signed by non other than President John Adams—one of the Founding Fathers of the Constitution—the law created
the Marine Hospital Service, a series of hospitals built and operated by the federal government to treat injured and ailing privately employed sailors. This government provided healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1% of a sailor’s wages), the same to be withheld from a sailor’s pay and turned over to the government by the ship’s owner. The payment of this tax for health care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work, he had to pay up
This very similar to how truly socialized medicine operates in European countries today. Keep in mind that many member of that Congress were comprised of some of the drafters of the Constitution. Hence, the argument that “no where in the Constitution does it state that government has such authority” (or intention) is moot.
Such related arguments have been used by the dozen or so Republican state governors who have filed lawsuits in federal courts seeking to block enactment of the new law. These governors assert that the new federal health care mandate is an “unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals” and “on the sovereignty of the states.” So does that mean that if a state mandates that its citizens must have insurance that they are similarly “encroaching on the liberty of individuals?” What then is the difference between whether a state government or federal government makes such a mandate? Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney apparently has no issues with government mandates, as he was the brainchild behind his state’s requiring nearly all of its citizens to purchase health care insurance in an effort to cover them. In the early 1990s, in an effort to counter the plan then-President Bill Clinton was proposing, Arizona Senator John McCain (yes, that John McCain) first proposed “individual mandates” with regards to federal health care coverage for every American. And more recently under Bush II, proposed mandates were not a problem when they were proposed by former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson (http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/23/1544321/individual-health-insurance-mandate.html)
However, if you want a real anecdotal example of how health care reform is more of a political ideological jockeying for power by opponents, you needn’t look any further than the Republican-controlled House itself. Late last year, newly-elected House Congressman Andy Harris (R-Maryland), an anesthesiologist who defeated his incumbent Democratic opponent by riding an anti-Obamacare platform into office made a small media wave. When informed that there would be a one month lag in time before his federally-mandated, tax-payer-funded medical healthcare insurance plan kicked into gear after his January 3rd swearing in, he questioned why it took so long for his insurance benefits to kick in. He then asked if he could “purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap.” According to reports, he was “incredulous” and stated that “this is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed” (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45181.html). The eye-opening magic of Karma in action.
Maryland Republican Senator Andy Harris after his November election win
In much the same way that many laws are passed yearly, opponents of affordable universal health care coverage need to give the political opposition a rest. Under the old system of every-American-for-himself, the prior system was simply unsustainable on both cost and individual coverage levels. And lastly, the lack of any proposed alternatives only proves how politically self-serving repeal is for those trying to do so.
Granted, the new law is not perfect—no where near being so—it does provide benefits to both individuals and businesses which the old system failed to do. Small businesses benefit by way of tax credits (up to 35%) which help in the costs for providing coverage for their employees. Young adults can now stay on their parents’ policies until the age of 26. Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be excluded from health care coverage. And seniors have benefited from having the “donut hole” in coverage for prescription drugs from the Bush-era prescription drug overhaul (2003) filled. Finally, insurance companies get to bring on 30 million more people to insure. It’s simply hard to understand how when so many can benefit from an overhaul in health care affordability why opposition remains. Even more puzzling, how political interests groups and opponents of health care reform can manage to mobilize so many Americans to think and vote against their own their own self-interests.
If opposition to health care reform is a stance meant to protect my “rights,” you can have it; I’d much rather prefer my good health and an ability to maintain it without going broke.