Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Healthy Debate

Honesty and civility are too much to ask for from House Republicans as they bring up the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."  Not even the title of the bill is honest or civil.  Independent experts reject the assertion that the law will adversely affect employment.  As Ezra Klein explains, the health care law will not kill jobs, although it might slightly reduce the long-term supply of labor because older workers may retire earlier with the expansion of Medicaid and other subsidies.  Nor will the current law bust the budget and increase the deficit, as Republicans also claim.  On the contrary, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated, repealing health care reform would add $230 billion over the next ten years.  The health care law currently in effect is designed to rein in rising health care costs -- which is the single greatest cause of long-term deficit problems.

The Affordable Care Act contains many popular provisions that are now in effect, which include prohibiting denial of coverage for children because of preexisting conditions, rescission of a policy after a person becomes sick, and a lifetime cap on the amount insurers pay for medical care.  Children are able to remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.  Insurers must spend at least 80% of their premium income on medical care and quality improvements.  And small businesses are entitled to federal tax credits to help them provide coverage to employees.

It is worth asking why Republicans want to repeal these provisions, particularly when they admit that they have no coherent plan to replace the current law.  If the Affordable Care Act will help reduce the deficit, will not "kill jobs," and will provide better coverage for more people, what do Republicans have against it?  The answer, when you clear away the falsehoods, becomes self-evident.  As Paul Krugman bluntly put it:  "They’re against reform because it would cover the uninsured — and that’s something they just don’t want to do."

This would seem to be a perfect opportunity for Democrats to educate the public about health care reform and highlight Republican hypocrisy.  Remarkably, as The New York Times reports, the Democrats are planning to do just that.  They intend to mount a vigorous defense, which will include a rapid response operation to monitor Republican claims, phone-banking, special events and paid  TV advertisements.  The Democratic National Committee has produced detailed talking points which, after spelling out the many ways in which the Affordable Care Act provides Americans with more freedom and control in their health care choices, emphasizes Republican bias towards insurance companies:
  • Now, Republicans in Congress want to unravel the law that holds insurance companies in check.
  •  The insurance company lobbyists are working overtime with Republicans to return to the days when insurance companies were free to do whatever they want, including raising premiums and imposing higher costs on families and businesses to protect their CEO bonuses and corporate profits. 
  •  Republicans will allow insurance companies to once again DENY coverage to children with existing conditions, CANCEL coverage when people get sick, and LIMIT the amount of care you can get − even if you need it. 
  •  When the insurance companies are free to pursue their profits without any accountability, people have fewer choices, fewer options, and little recourse. 
  •  And, by rolling back the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are adding a TRILLION dollars to the deficit. 
  • They would give back to insurance companies subsidies of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. And they would cut back on efforts in the law to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending. We can NOT afford to add another trillion dollars in debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay - especially when it goes to wasteful spending and outrageous subsides for insurance companies.
The repeal bill is likely to pass in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives but has no chance of passing in the Senate, and, in any event, President Obama has promised to veto it. But the Republicans' cynical efforts provide a second chance for Democrats who were intimidated by poll numbers and too craven to stand up for health care reform during the mid-term elections. It looks like they actually might take it.


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