Obamacare: GOP obstructionism must end

Obamacare: GOP obstructionism must end

September 1st, 2013 in Opinion Times

A clear majority of Americans - 57 percent - are opposed to the Republican-led effort to defund Obamacare, a new poll shows.

But don't expect public opinion to get in the way of hardheaded conservatives who say they want to cut off funding for the law they've tried 40 times to repeal. Why? Because once the law is in place, insurance companies can't eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions and all Americans have health care insurance, then the Republicans will have lost a tremendous wedge issue.

The defunding initiative would block any government funding bill that includes money to fully implement Obamacare, presumably giving conservatives leverage since Congress needs to pass a government funding bill by Sept. 30 or risk letting parts of the government shut down.

But remember, 57 percent of Americans say they disapprove of cutting off funding as a way to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. That is the finding of a new survey from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

What the poll shows is more about America's complete disgust with congressional methods than about support for the law, however. That's clear because of another startling number in the Kaiser poll: 51 percent of those surveyed say they don't have enough information about the new law to understand how it will impact them and their family.

But here's the real shocker. About 44 percent of Americans either think the law has been repealed (8 percent), overturned by the Supreme Court (5 percent) or are unsure whether it remains the law (31 percent).

With all that confusion - continually fed by the tea party wing of the GOP that thinks of government only as a tax and not as a service - just 37 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Obamacare, while 42 percent have an unfavorable view. That leaves 21 percent who don't know.

Well, here are some facts: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - dubbed Obamacare - is law, and some aspects of it already are enacted and already have benefited more than 100 million Americans.

Obamacare does not replace private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. It is for uninsured people - not already insured people - although it does affect already-insured folks by preventing insurance companies from dropping them if they get sick.

It eliminates pre-existing condition restrictions that big insurance companies have used for decades to help rake-in some of the world's largest profits.

It requires insurance plans to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premiums directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care. Forcing Big Insurance to spend most of your dollars on actual health care is "almost revolutionary," in the words of one research group. Insurers whose actual spending for health care that is below those levels will have to refund the difference. Government estimates suggest that 12.8 million Americans will get rebates totaling $1.1 billion - or an average of about $151 per household.

It allows an estimated 3.1 million young Americans who would have lacked health coverage to remain on their parents' health insurance up to age 26.

Is the law perfect? Likely not. But no new law is. Usually, however, Congress lets a law roll out and then tweaks the parts that don't work as envisioned.

Instead, the U.S. House of Representatives has spent countless hours making 40 repeal votes they knew were fruitless - and nine of those repeal votes were made after the law was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.

At the 31st vote to repeal, the GOP-controlled House had spent an estimated 88 hours and 53 minutes between January 2011 and July 2012 with their futile repeals. Along the way that two weeks of time cost American taxpayers about $48 million as days frittered away that could have been spent debating other important issues such as immigration, education, and - Gosh - real, thoughtful, budget cuts.

That money could have reduced the deficit. It could have been spent to provide subsidies for about 4,500 families of four to purchase insurance in the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges that Americans don't understand because the GOP has been so busy muddling the issue.