The public has endured a lot of media coverage and political campaigning that revolves around the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Since its passage — without a single Republican vote — in 2010, this government mandate of health insurance, not care, has been a headliner. There has been an obvious partisan divide about support for the ACA and whether the objectives of the massive program have been met.
Remember, the promises were, "If you like your doctor and/or health plan, you can keep your doctor and/or health plan" and that families would save $2,500 annually on the cost of health insurance.
While health insurance companies (and other special interests) publicly worked with Democrats to pass Obamacare, increasing their 2009 lobbying budget by almost a fourth from the previous year, those companies also spent millions working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose the very same legislation. That's called playing both sides of the aisle.
In 2016, insurers dumped $79 million into direct political contributions while their total expenses for lobbying reached about $147 million. The aim of those expenditures was to "correct" and "fix" the problems with the government-controlled insurance program, which has cost insurers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
America has been awaiting the Obamacare repeal and replacement promised for seven years by Republicans, who now control both the legislative and executive branches of government. But fear not. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is too easy for some of those federally elected officials. Now, the insurers are asking for a two-year bailout — with your tax dollars — in the form of cost-sharing reduction payments as a failing program is being placed on artificial life-support.
The letter of request sent to Congress is signed by BlueCross BlueShield, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Academy of Family Physicians, each with massive lobbying teams. America will watch to see if Congress is committed to reducing health care costs or addressing insurance premium subsidies, which incidentally have no relation to the cost of services rendered.
But, folks, did you know that after more than seven years of wrangling inside the D.C. Beltway, Congress, with the aid of the Obama administration in 2013, has made itself exempt from the mandated health insurance plan? Originally, all 535 members of both chambers of Congress, their families and their respective staffs were to receive insurance benefits as administered through the law they passed. Obamacare canceled their "Cadillac" plans and moved all patients into the federally run exchanges.
But, oh the burden to live under the same laws they pass, right? Four years ago, President Barack Obama's health teams crafted a new rule that placed Congress in the D.C. small-business exchange created for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. To boot, members of Congress voted for a taxpayer-funded subsidy to keep their premiums lower.
Florida Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis has filed an amendment to the House's spending bill to defund this special rule protecting Congress. As he conveyed in the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, it's time our elected leaders "eat their own cooking." Having two sets of laws, one set for the average American and a second set for insiders is not just unethical, it's wrong.
Should DeSantis' amendment find success, Americans can rest assured Obamacare will be repealed and replaced with some type of mechanism that not only provides health insurance but also addresses the soaring costs of health care services. Remember, health insurance does not mean health. We now have a government program revolving around insurance companies and special interests, not American citizens.
Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, owns Rivers Edge Alliance.