The political theater of the absurd that House Republicans staged Tuesday and Wednesday before voting on repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 made a mockery of logic and facts, of the actual benefits of the law already put in place, and of those to be implemented by 2014. House Republicans’ simplistic, 28-line repeal bill, to be sure, will get nowhere in the Senate, so it will not be passed before the 2012 presidential election, if ever. But that is hardly the point.
Republicans did not stage this show in the hope of actually repealing the health care reform bill in the near future. Rather, their interest is only in the political symbolism against reform and the electoral gains they hope this deceitful initiative will spawn in 2012.
Reasonable voters can only hope the benefits of reform will cancel out the GOP’s anti-reform propaganda and lies by then. For voters interested in the facts, there already is clear and ample evidence of the accumulating benefits of reform, and there are larger benefits to come.
The Affordable Health Care Act has already made substantial inroads in curbing the medical insurance industry’s gross abuses of ordinary working-class Americans through tactics that fracture and undermine the original intent of broad-based health insurance.
The Act, for example, has outlawed the use of pre-existing conditions to deny insurance coverage for children. It has banned the insurance industry’s scheme of canceling insurance when customers get too sick, and it has banned insurers’ lifetime caps on medical coverage. By 2014, annual caps on coverage, and denials of insurance to adults with pre-existing conditions will also be banned.
The Act has begun closing the so-called “doughnut hole” in Medicare’s Part D prescription drug coverage. It has fixed requirements for insurers to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on patient care for small group and individual policies, and 85 percent for large group policies, rather than take excessive profits and pay such lavish executive salaries.
It requires Medicare to provide preventive care, requires other insurers to provide no-deductible coverage for some preventive and wellness care, and requires for-profit insurers and employers to provide basic coverage plans that are adequate to today’s medical costs.
The Act also provides income-adjusted subsidies for families with incomes of up to four-times the poverty level to purchase insurance, and directs states to establish insurance exchanges that will establish a competitive insurance market for such policies. These income-adjusted subsidies will help individuals without insurance meet the mandate for purchasing insurance. And tax credits to small businesses for up to 35 percent will help them finance health insurance for employees.
In our 3rd congressional district represented by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who wrongly favors repeal, approximately 12,600 small businesses, and their employees, would benefit from the subsidy for small businesses. Overall in the 3rd District, it would help up to 300,000 people get insurance they might otherwise be denied.
The most egregious lie by Republicans about the Affordable Health Care Act, of course, is that it would kill jobs or grow the nation’s deficit. Quite the opposite is true. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the bill finds that it would save $250 billion by 2018 from the current health care status quo without reform, and it would save far more, in the trillions of dollars, over future decades as the health care industry adapts to the fundamentals of reform.
Its cost-saving features are built around better coordination of care, preventive care and reduction of duplicative and wasteful procedures prompted by fee-for-service add-ons. The savings will reduce the cost of care and finance expanded insurance coverage of the uninsured and the underinsured. Those savings, in turn, reduce the amount of uncompensated care that has traditionally caused cost-shifting and higher premiums for the insured.
Breaking the back of this dynamic is essential to bringing down America’s soaring costs of health care, which is nearly double the per capita costs of care in all other industrialized countries. It’s also essential to providing humane, universal care in America — the only industrialized country without universal care.
Republicans’ warped and deceitful arguments against reform go against logic, global experience, and the health and medical security of all Americans. Their campaign of lies serves only to divide Americans and keep the medical insurance industry rich on its profit-gouging, inhumane tactics.
Republicans obviously believe they can deceive enough Americans to make their anti-reform gambit work to their benefit. The next two years will tell.