What REALLY Went Wrong With Obamacare

At this late date and with all the press about the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also either affectionately or abominably known as Obamacare, one might think that the government shutdown and the idiotic debt ceiling flirtation of early October never even happened.  The GOP and particularly the ultra-extreme-right wing Tea Party embedded within it are absolutely gloating at the failures of the www.healthcare.gov website and the 5 million health insurance company cancellation notices that have gone out to perhaps 5 million private insurances policy-holders of sub-standard policies.

Never mind that those policies didn’t cover things like hospital stays or operations.  And never mind that that there were other ways to sign up for the ACA/Obamacare besides the website.

Actually, the GOP is right.

Yeah, you read that correctly.  The conservatives in this country were right that Obamacare was flawed.  Involving the private for-profit health insurance industry, which they ABSOLUTELY insisted upon even though they STILL couldn’t manage to submit a single vote for the bill in 2009, was a BIG mistake.  Every other advanced country on Earth knew better than to involve private industry health care insurance companies because they knew that putting a for-profit basis into public safety compromises the very public safety one is trying to protect.

Every advanced country on Earth, that is, except this one.

Mind you, not everyone in the USA is blind to this fact, nor have they been for a very long time.  As far back as the Truman administration, the educated, informed and enlightened realized that public safety was a function of government that had to be above the for-profit motivation of free private capitalist marketeers.  In fact, President Eisenhower, a republican, warned Americans in the 1950’s to be watchful of the “military-industrial complex” whose primary purpose was not protection of the nation but self-propagation of its own profits and power.

When Obamacare was being debated during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton supported a universal health care plan that essentially would provide every American with complete health care from womb to tomb the same way that every citizen from every other advanced nation in the world is provided health care.

Republicans balked at this as “socialized medicine”, a government takeover of the individual’s healthcare, a massive tax hike, the responsible subsidizing the irresponsible, the end of private industry in the USA, etc., etc.  They claimed that America’s healthcare system was the greatest on Earth, even though tens of thousands of Americans declared bankruptcy every year because of healthcare costs,  tens of thousands of Americans died every year of preventable and curable health issues, millions of Americans had no health care coverage, millions of Americans went to hospital emergency rooms as their only source of health care, and then couldn’t pay their bills.  And by the way, who do you think ends up paying those bills for that extremely inefficient form of health care delivery?  That’s right, folks…ALL OF US.

In stepped Barack Obama with a plan for a sorta-kinda universal health care that covered everyone not already covered, as long as they filed an income tax return.  That was  the enforcement mechanism, i.e., you would be required to purchase PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare insurance if you didn’t already have it, and if you didn’t, you’d be fined a paltry $95 on your income tax return.  That was Obamacare, and it preserved the private, for-profit health insurance companies.

Mind you, it carries a stipulation that these companies cannot profit beyond a certain percentage, and that if they begin to do so, they must rebate the surplus back to their customers.  There are also stipulations, good ones in fact, that prevent lifetime caps on insurance expenses, prevent the companies from dropping you if you get sick or have pre-existing conditions (such as being a female), allow you to stay on your parents’ plan to age 26, mandate coverage of preventative services such a mammograms, colonoscopies, lab work, mental illness services, etc.

But under other countries universal health care programs, these have existed forever.

Barack Obama has one monumental failing, albeit a very noble one.  He believes most people are good and noble and honest and intelligent and will listen to reason and evidence and data and merit.  He’s a good man that believes that if he honestly and honorably tries to meet the opposing side half way, the other side will honestly and honorably do the same.  He’s woefully wrong.

His attempt to find a civilized, intelligent, fair, compromising, inclusive solution blew up in his face because the other side had absolutely no intention of ever EVER working with him to implement ANY change to the archaic inefficient for-profit-based health-care system that the USA has suffered under since forever, and which every other advanced country in the world has left behind decades ago.

Obama will recover from this because more people will benefit than won’t.  But it didn’t have to be this way.

Tuesday’s Elections Shifted USA Left

Last Tuesday (November 5th, 2013), elections for governor were held in New Jersey and Virginia.  Additionally, a GOP primary runoff for a US congressional seat in Alabama was held, as well as a mayoral race in New York City.

Some factors influencing these races are pretty stable, such as geopolitics, e.g., New York City is a heavily democratic, or blue, city.  Yet, over the past 20 years, New Yorkers elected a republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and then an independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

New Jersey is also blue state.  Until recently, Virginia was considered predominantly red, while Alabama is about as red and conservative as one might be able to find in the USA.

These relatively stable geopolitical factors change very slowly over time as their populations change.  However, more volatile factors such as recent past or current events influence elections as well, some to a greater extent than others.  Take, for example, the seriously flawed and still not completed implementation of Obamacare (current) and the government shutdown and debt ceiling limit fight (recent events).

First, current (and ongoing) events:  Anyone paying attention is aware that the first five weeks of Obamacare’s implementation has been nothing short of disastrous, what with its cranky website, the unanticipated cancellation of millions of sub-standard policies and a myriad of other problems which have caught everyone by surprise.  The Obama administration has clearly lost some ground with the American people, as evidenced by recent polling declines in approval ratings, although they are slowly beginning to rise again as the healthcare.gov website improves.

Next, recent events:  The government shutdown and race to drive over the debt ceiling limit cliff by the GOP driven primarily by the Tea Party ultra-conservatives in the US House of Representatives.  These folks really believed their own rhetoric about how the whole country was behind them, right up to the moment the new debt ceiling limit passed and the government reopened.  Even then, Tea Party leaders such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Joe Barton of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and others were still advocating for a government default claiming that it would have been a good thing, when all of the GOP’s traditional backers such as Wall Street and US Chamber of Commerce were screaming for them to stop it.

So, back to Tuesday night’s elections.  In New Jersey, republican Governor Chris Christie won a huge re-election victory with 58% of the vote against a democratic in a democrat-leaning state.  He won by being a moderate mainstream establishment republican who publicly embraced president Obama during the superstorm Sandy recovery last year on national television before the 2012 presidential election.  He won by stating emphatically that he would work with anyone, regardless of political party, to get things done.  He clearly put distance between his brand of republicanism and the Tea Party’s extremist brand of republicanism.

In Virginia, the democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe was predicted to win over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli by 8 to 10 percentage points, but only won by less than 3%.  Obamacare’s problems lowered his win margin, just as the tea Party’s government self-destruction-plan a month earlier had raised that same margin.  Still, the Tea Party’s hope that hatred of Obamacare is the key to their maintaining control of the House of Representatives and taking control of the senate in the November 2014 mid-term elections less than a year from now seems to be more crack-pipe-dream than reality if they couldn’t even pull it off while Obamacare is at its lowest in a state like Virginia that currently has a republican governor and that even now must be considered a swing state such as Florida and Ohio.

And then there’s Alabama, where a mainstream, establishment GOP candidate beat a Tea Party candidate in a congressional primary.

Oh, don’t forget New York City, which elected its first democratic mayor in 20 years.

What all this says is that in the broad spectrum of political locales that held elections last Tuesday, the message was crystal clear and it was the same:

People have had enough of extremism and gridlock.  The pendulum is swinging back to the left after having swung way too far to the right.  And the future, barring any more unintended burps and gas-passing by the administration, might look something like this:

In the 2014 elections, the democrats will pick up perhaps 14 seats in the House. With 214 votes to the republicans’ 220, they will have enough, with just 3 or 4 moderate republicans blowing off the Tea Party extremists, to get stuff done.  In the Senate, the democrats will increase their numbers to 59.  With at least one moderate republican, there will be no filibuster, and stuff will get done.

THEN they will all be judged as to their governing skills, as opposed to their ability to emulate walls, for the 2016 elections.

Imagine that.  🙂