One of the challenges in tackling issues like health care and insurance is that far too many people don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not referring to average Americans, but to the members of Congress who are supposed to be informed before they make the laws. Worse than ignorance, in many cases, is that those legislators are lying to their constituents about the effectiveness of Obamacare, according to Charles Ornstein of ProPublica:
As the debate to repeal the law heats up in Congress, constituents are flooding their representatives with notes of support or concern, and the lawmakers are responding, sometimes with form letters that are misleading. A review of more than 200 such letters by ProPublica and its partners at Kaiser Health News, Stat and Vox, found dozens of errors and mischaracterizations about the ACA and its proposed replacement. The legislators have cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms and made statements that don’t stand up to verification.
It’s not clear if this is intentional or if the lawmakers and their staffs don’t understand the current law or the proposals to alter it. Either way, the issue of what is wrong — and right — about the current system has become critical as the House prepares to vote on the GOP’s replacement bill Thursday.
“If you get something like that in writing from your U.S. senator, you should be able to just believe that,” said [Andrea] Mongler, 34, a freelance writer and editor who is pursuing a master’s degree in public health. “I hate that people are being fed falsehoods, and a lot of people are buying it and not questioning it. It’s far beyond politics as usual.”
Perhaps the biggest falsehood being peddled about Obamacare is that is has been a disaster. You hear every Republican from Trump down selling that talking point. But as Rick Newman explains, what everybody forgets about Obamacare is that the US health insurance system was a much bigger mess before that landmark legislation was enacted:
From 2001 to 2010, the number of working-age, uninsured Americans rose from 38 million to 52 million, which was 28% of the working-age population. The deep recession that started in 2007 was particularly brutal, since many of the 9 million people who lost their jobs also lost insurance coverage—at the same time their income plummeted, making it hard or impossible to buy coverage on their own.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 62% of personal-bankruptcy filings were caused by unmanageable medical costs. A Harvard study published the same year found that 45,000 Americans died every year simply because they lacked health insurance and couldn’t get reasonable access to care. That was hardly a healthcare system to be proud of, and the millions of people falling through the cracks generated the political pressure that led to the ACA passing in 2010, when similar efforts had failed going all the way back to the early 1980s.
The GOP has talked itself into a corner on this issue. While Obama was president, they voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so now they’d be seen as lying hypocrites if they didn’t do what they promised their constituents would be among their first priorities. But when you’re led by an ignoramus-in-chief who tweeted recently, “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” you wonder why he and his surrogates weren’t paying attention to all the policy discussions on this topic over the last decade — or had even read the ACA.
Obamacare is far from perfect, but as the Republicans’ botched attempt at a replacement bill stumbles along this week proves, this isn’t a matter that can be fixed in 140 characters. In their zeal to reverse anything Obama may have accomplished, they are laying an egg that’s rotten before it hatches.
The bottom line in any attempt to repeal, reverse, repair, and revise the Affordable Care Act can be summed up in one simple phrase: “you break it, you bought it.” If the GOP’s solution becomes the actual disaster that they claim Obamacare has been, let’s hope that voters — including those who fell for the Trump con only to find themselves worse off because of this legislation — remember who to blame at the ballot box next year.
That’s assuming, of course, that the Democrats can get their act together enough to exploit the issue for political gain. So far, they’ve done nothing but show themselves to be even more inept at this than the Republicans are in pretending they care about less-than-millionaires.