Has anyone else noticed how pathetically frightened the Republican Party is that Obamacare just might succeed?
I know, we’re all supposed to think the End Is Nigh because the government has decided to give the 10 percent of large employers who don’t insure their workers another 365 days to do so before levying a small penalty. This could not possibly be a reasonable accommodation to protect jobs and businesses, because as everybody knows, this president hates jobs and businesses.
No, this brief delay must be a sign that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is destined to result in abject failure. After all, that’s what every Congressional Republican with the ability to hit send on a press release has told us, over and over again, hoping that repeating their prediction enough times will somehow make it true.
But here’s my question: if Republicans are so confident Obamacare will end badly, why not just shut up about it? It’s not like they have the votes to repeal the law—a math problem they still haven’t solved after 37 different tries. Their appeal to the Supreme Court ended in defeat at the hands of a conservative chief justice. And now the bulk of the plan will begin to take effect in just a few months.
At this point, why not sit back and wait for this crazy experiment to self-destruct? Why not let President Obama and the Democrats reckon with the millions of angry Americans who will undoubtedly hate their new insurance or their new insurance protections?
Because Republicans are terrified that Obamacare could actually work. Already, the law has provided 54 million Americans free access to preventive services like check-ups and mammograms. More than six million seniors have saved more than six billion dollars on their prescriptions. Nearly 13 million consumers have received more than one billion dollars in rebates from insurance companies that had overcharged them. There are more than three million happy young adults who have been allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. And in California, a state that represents one-fifth of the U.S. economy, we’ve learned that premiums for the law’s new insurance options have come in lower than expected.
As these successes build, Republicans are naturally coping with their fear the only way they know how: by scaring the hell out of everyone else. The Koch brothers, not content with the millions they flushed down the toilet on Karl Rove’s 2012 electoral strategy, are spending millions more on ads that tell the same previously debunked lies about the health-care law. Mitch McConnell, still pursuing his top legislative priority of defeating a president who can no longer be defeated, actually threatened the NFL for even considering the administration’s request to help educate uninsured Americans about the fact that they can now receive affordable coverage under the law.
Think about that. This is the same kind of public education and outreach effort that the Bush administration once launched about a prescription drug program that many Democrats voted against. But Democrats didn’t object because it didn’t exactly seem fair to punish senior citizens with higher drug costs just to prove a political point. This is also the same kind of effort Mitt Romney launched in Massachusetts when he asked the Red Sox to help educate the public about the benefits of Romneycare. Again, no one had a problem—just like no one has problems with government efforts to educate the public about Social Security benefits, or flu vaccinations, or school lunches, or any other benefits and protections we’ve written into law as a humane and decent society.
But today, the antigovernment zealots who have taken over the once-proud Republican Party feel they must burn our village to save it. They are actively trying to prevent Americans who have been too poor or sick to get health insurance from knowing that all three branches of their democratically elected government have passed and upheld a law that will finally allow them to see a doctor without going broke.
This is not to say that implementation will be easy or without problems. Some will be self-inflicted by poorly written provisions or bureaucrats who make mistakes because they’re human. Others will be inflicted by Republican governors and legislatures who refuse to accept the money the federal government is providing to expand health insurance programs for the poor and disabled.
But there is now plenty of evidence that if we as a nation want Obamacare to work, it will work; that if we can extract ourselves from the trench warfare that preceded the passage of the law, we can all start focusing on fixing and improving it over the next year. Out in America, I know there are not only plenty of Democrats and Independents who feel this way, but Republicans as well. What these Americans need to do now is speak up and be heard, because the antics of their frightened representatives in Washington are endangering the health care of millions and embarrassing their party in the process.