By Charlie Gerow
Let’s start with what should be obvious: Obamacare has failed.
It never did what it promised. The Affordable Care Act wasn’t so affordable. Premiums and deductibles skyrocketed while patient choice and care plummeted.
Former President Bill Clinton said Obamacare was “the craziest thing in the world.” That was in the middle of last year’s presidential election.
For years, some Democrats publicly called Obamacare “a train wreck.” Privately many others expressed similar thoughts.
Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Democrat who won’t say that Obamacare is “flawed” and needs to be repaired.
They voted for Obamacare, and now their best defense of this failed program is that it needs major overhaul.
That’s from moderate Democrats. The farther left variety are calling for “single-payer” schemes. That’s shorthand for universal government health care coverage.
Many who opposed Obamacare from the start believed that the ultimate goal of its proponents, who knew it was bound to eventually collapse under its own weight, was to replace it with a “single-payer” program for all Americans (already in place for Medicare as well as health care for veterans and Native Americans).
It took massive amounts of arm-twisting and back-room dealing to get Obamacare through in the first place.
Remember the “Louisiana Purchase” that swung one key vote and the “Cornhusker Kickback” that provided the last vote necessary to get Obamacare through an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress?
Once passed we got to learn what was in the bill, as now-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had suggested. As layers were peeled back, the rot of the core was long ago exposed.
Republicans, meanwhile promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. They ran on that platform in 2010, the first congressional elections since the passage of Obamacare. They won landslide victories and took control of Congress.
For the last seven years they’ve repeated the “repeal and replace” promise with great political success. They repeatedly passed repeal legislation, knowing that it faced a presidential veto.
The 2016 presidential election heard cries of “repeal and replace” both from candidate Donald Trump and GOP congressional candidates.
Their voices were amplified by reports in the waning days of the campaign about the soaring costs of Obamacare and the shrinking choices available as providers pocketed out of market after market.
Those promises helped give the Republicans everything they asked for — control of both houses of Congress and the presidency.
January’s gleefulness has given way to the mid-summer blues as legislative attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare have faltered and failed.
Last week the Senate plan came to a screeching halt. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) thin margin evaporated when Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined their GOP colleagues, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine in opposing the bill.
It’s likely that there were other Republicans willing to bolt, too.
None wanted to be the “vote that killed health care reform,” hence the coupon line of Moran and Lee once Paul and Collins left only one vote to kill the measure.
With their defections went the opportunity to repeal crushing taxes, get premiums and deductibles under control, begin stabilizing individual health care markets and expand consumer choices.
The chance to reform half century old Medicaid, offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa). and get its runaway costs — growing faster than the national economy — under control went out the window, too, at least for the time being.
President Trump, in a Captain Obvious moment, observed that, “If the Republicans have the House and have the Senate and have the presidency and can’t pass the health care bill they are going to look weak.”
Trump isn’t famous for understatement, so his choice of words is telling.
This was a failure, pure and simple. Whether it can be corrected and how much long-term damage has been done to taxpayers, patients and the Republican brand remains to be seen.
I’m a glass half-full guy; an eternal optimist. So like many others, I’ll be looking carefully at the effort to put up for a vote — even if there no great likelihood of success — a repeal bill.
Any senator who casts a procedural vote to keep the measure from the floor should be viewed as voting to keep Obamacare in place. The blame for the disaster that ensues will be theirs, not placed on those who wanted to keep their promise to voters.
Something very good could come from such a vote. It will put every member of the Senate on record. Twenty-five Democrats will have to take that record to their voters next year.
Included in that number are 10 who hail from states carried by Trump. Some are states he carried by huge margins like the 42-point margin in West Virginia. Requiring those senators to tell their constituents exactly where they stand might have a very positive effect.
Most folks don’t care much about legislative process or the nuances of proposed statutory language. But they know what they were promised and they know what they voted for.
They gave the Republicans a mandate and they want it fulfilled. There’s still an opportunity to do that.
Charlie Gerow is the CEO of Quantum Communications which has a Maryland office in Annapolis. He can be reached at [email protected]