Focus on refining ACA, not repealing it


It's been called worse than slavery and the Fugitive Slave Act, and "the worse thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

And after the Supreme Court issued its decision upholding the act, Sen. Rand Paul wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which he said "The liberal blogosphere apparently thinks the constitutional debate is over. I wonder whether they would have had that opinion the day after the Dred Scott decision."

"'Worse than slavery' seems to be the most popular right-wing description for a law that subsidizes health insurance for low- and middle-income Americans," noted Slate's Jamelle Bouie.

But comparing the Affordable Care Act to slavery is mild, compared to what some other Republicans have said.

Here's this from North Carolina state Sen. Bob Bucho: "Justice Roberts' pen and Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then the swords of the Nazis, Soviets and terrorists combined." Or this, from Idaho state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, who warned that Obama would eventually establish a socialized health care system: "The insurance companies are creating their own tombs. Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange." One more Holocaust comparison? Stacey Campfield, a Republican state senator in Tennessee said "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for ‘train rides' for Jews in the 40s."

Do you know who's not buying the comparisons to slavery, the Holocaust and the Soviets? The health insurance companies. Elise Viebeck, writing for The Hill, noted that after a few months of hesitation, health insurance companies suddenly want in on the ObamaCare action.

"With a difficult launch year out of the way, insurers are seeing a moneymaking opportunity in the federal healthcare program and are lining up to offer plans on the ObamaCare exchanges in 2015," she wrote. "In the 10 states where data is available, at least 27 new insurers have indicated they will offer plans on the marketplaces in 2015."

So far, noted Viebeck, Michigan's exchange will see the biggest increase, with five insurers planning to join.

"The surge in participation ... indicates that many of the ObamaCare exchanges are taking root despite the broader unpopularity of the law and opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill."

And, noted Viebeck , more competition on the exchanges could put downward pressure on prices and drive down the benchmark price for premium subsidies. "While some insurers are hoping to enact double-digit price increases next year, others have proposed to cut their rates."

Of course, the drumbeat for repeal from the right continues, despite the slowly emerging evidence that Americans have grown, if not to like, at least accustomed to the mandates of the law.

The addition of more carriers "doesn't change the fundamental flaws in the law -- higher costs, wasted taxpayer dollars and Americans losing access to the care they like and want," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.

"For months reporters have been pointing out what they perceive as ‘pretty good news for the White House and ObamaCare,' yet Obama's numbers are at an all-time low and ObamaCare's numbers are the exact same as they were on Election Day 2010," said National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen. "Maybe, just maybe, the main stream media's opinion is off on what Americans perceive as ‘pretty good news.'"

Need we remind you that the Affordable Care Act is basically the same plan the Heritage Foundation proposed in 1989, which mandated that all households obtain adequate insurance? Republican senators such as Utah's Orrin Hatch and Iowa's Chuck Grassley introduced legislation based on the Heritage Fondation's proposal, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich supported it.

"We got the idea of an individual mandate from (Gingrich) and (he) got it from the Heritage Foundation," said Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts (ahem ... RomneyCare, anyone?).

And, by the way, Hatch, Grassley and Gingrich now oppose what they once supported. If you know where Romney stands on the issue, please let us know, especially as it appears he is now the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

"It's easy to forget that for years (Republicans have) been arguing that any comprehensive health insurance system be designed exactly like the one that officially began Oct. 1, 2013 ..." noted Robert Reich for the Christian Science Monitor. Republicans fought a bolder Democrat plan, he wrote, countering "that any system must be based on private insurance and paid for with a combination of subsidies for low-income purchasers and a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up."

In an editorial, noted that though ACA got off to a rough start with the bungled rollout of the website, a recent survey found that a majority of voters are tired of hearing politicians talk about federal health care reform.

"We still have a long way to go, of course, before the effectiveness of what many call ‘Obamacare' can be objectively judged. The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many of those who have obtained health insurance for the first time are happy to do so, but are struggling to pay premiums, even when taking into account federal subsidies."

What 60 percent of respondents to the Kaiser survey said they wanted to see was improvements to the law.

"The rollout of any initiative is often beset with problems. As long as the public accepts the program's general aim, the logical course is to fix the problems. But that is not happening. Republicans remain committed only to repealing Obamacare, and there is seemingly no dose of common sense that can dissuade them from a mission that is doomed to fail. The GOP-controlled House has supported dozens of repeal votes, only to see the Democratic-controlled Senate ignore them."

Even if Republicans retain control of the House and take control of the Senate following the November election, any legislation aimed at repealing ACA will be vetoed by the president.

"So the only way for the new law to disappear would be for the GOP to control Congress and for a Republican president to win election in 2016 and take office in January 2017. But by that time, the Affordable Care Act will be so established that repeal would be extremely unlikely. Make no mistake, the ACA is here to stay."

So while we would have preferred a single-payer system as is in development here in Vermont, we hope Americans realize the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and send legislators to Washington, D.C., in November who are willing to refine the law and not spend in vain valuable time attempting to repeal it. There will be a barrage of campaign ads that attack Democrats, linking them to Pres. Obama and his signature act. We hope voters can see through the haze produced by the ads and we also hope that Democrats running for national office can embrace ACA with the caveat a good plan that needs fixing is better than no plan at all.

~ Brattleboro Reformer


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