Debunking the “Obamacare” Myths

Obamacare is really a pejorative term (now, 10 years from now it might be considered an honor), but I will use it here for simplicity as it is easier than the full name of the actual bill and it is familiar to most Americans. There is so much misinformation about Obamacare out there, I thought I would clear some stuff up.  I am not arguing even that is it a great bill or that there are not real issues with some of it, but most opponents don’t even know what they are opposing or what is in it – they oppose it because Obama’s political opponents have made it the “bogeyman”.  People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts.

The most recent decision on the constitutionality of the law came from the DC Court of Appeals which is considered the most influential on all the circuits because they hear the most cases on the powers of the federal government, given their location. What is most interesting is that is was a three judge panel and it was widely reported the decision as 2-1 in favor of Obamacare.

In substance the vote was 3-0 in terms of upholding it and most importantly, two of the three judges were conservative Republicans including the one who wrote the decision. The decision was written by Justice Laurence Silberman a Reagan appointee considered one of the leading conservative intellectual lights in the federal judiciary. A man who got Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor from President Bush II. In his decision he compared arguments about the constitutionality of the mandate (the most contentious part of the bill) – to those who argued that Congress lacked the power to desegregate lunch counters. The other judge who voted to affirm was a Carter appointee, but the supposed dissent came from Justice Kavanaugh – who was appointed by President Bush II who worked under Ken Starr when Starr was investigating Clinton and Kavanaugh declined to rule on the merits stating the opponents of Obamacare for technical reasons were too early in asking for injunctive relief so he felt the court had no jurisdiction.

So far besides this ruling, the 6th circuit has upheld the law, the 11th circuit struck it down and the 4th circuit decided to punt – but given the importance of the DC Circuit and who wrote their ruling, I would not say the chances of its legality are just 50-50 , they are much better than that give what happened in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now as to why did President Obama push so hard for healthcare legislation, it is because the Democrats have wanted this for years and they had the votes and they don’t know when the next time would be they would have the votes- Why do the Democrats want this so bad ? Because it is their constituency that bears the brunt of the gaps in our healthcare system and because CURRENT Republican knee jerk reaction on government solutions would keep any reform from happening. This is of course unless it is proposed by a Republican President – keep in mind that virtually every Republican voted for the Medicare drug bill pushed by then President Bush whose costs were vastly understated and to which it later came out there was pressure applied on Medicare’s chief actuary to keep the real cost estimates from Congress until the bill passed.

Not only is Romneycare very similar to Obamacare – what goes unsaid is that mandates are a REPUBLICAN idea – yet now they rail against them. Most liberal Dems would go to a single payer system (including Obama if he thought he could get the votes) and under single payer there is no mandate. Mandates are a Republican idea to keep private insurers in the game because that is the only way they can afford to underwrite people with pre-existing conditions — the latter something with wide public support. In fact, in response to HillaryCare in 1993, 16 Republican Senators including Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader and the party’s 1996 candidate for President as well as its 1976 candidate for VP, sponsored legalization that included a mandate to buy health care insurance. As Romney points out too, Newt Gingrich supported mandates for years and here is a link to his long record of it:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/newt-gingrichs-changing-stance-on-health-care-mandates-fact-checker-biography/2011/12/09/gIQAVl0lkO_blog.html

Here is a link to another healthcare plan from a President other Obama that includes mandates for employers to offer health insurance and mandates for their employees to pay part of the cost:  This plan was not from Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Truman, FDR, or Clinton, this was Richard Nixon – the Nixon plan had more mandates and more employer burdens than Obamacare. Meaning every legitimate attempt to solve the problem of healthcare coverage from Republicans has massive doses of what is in Obamacare because if you start with the premise of leaving employer provided coverage and Medicare in place, it really limits your options.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2009/September/03/nixon-proposal.aspx

If you really want to understand why the Democrats were so intent on passing healthcare on a human level, read this: It is from an Obama supporter who became a non-supporter when she felt he had not done enough to help the middle class, that was until she got cancer and Obamacare saved her life and from financial ruin.

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/06/opinion/la-oe-ward-in-praise-of-obamacare-20111206

The reality is it easy to object to the government helping other people with healthcare from the safety of Medicare insurance or because you ignorantly believe that your employer provided insurance has you covered, which only works as long as you can keep the job. One of the biggest hypocrisies in society is people who oppose government run healthcare but support Medicare and/or take it themselves. You see any Republicans calling for the repeal of Medicare other than Paul Ryan?. Notice how most Republicans including Gingrich ran away from the Ryan plan when it became clear they would lose the senior vote. There are 48 million Americans on Medicare and around 44 million on Medicaid. Though Medicaid is a program for poor people and is perceptionally thought to benefit inner city single mothers with out of wedlock births, seniors make up about 9% of the recepients but account for 20% of  the cost of Medicaid. If you add in the blind and disabled with seniors, 62% of the cost of Medicaid can be accounted for. It also means after eliminating double counting, some 100 million Americans are on government health insurance including people getting VA benefits.  In other words, one in three Americans roughly gets their health care from the government, not including current federal and state government employees which would take that number higher.

Making this situation even more lopsided is that Medicare is in large part paid by a Medicaid tax paid by working people who might not have health insurance themselves. So we have a system where someone stocking boxes at Wal-Mart is paying taxes for someone’s else health insurance, but does not have it themselves and the people they are supporting might be millionaires because there is no means testing for Medicare. So we have minimum wage workers paying Medicare taxes to pay the healthcare bills of people who are living off tax-free municipal bond interest while they are on a cruise to the Bahamas and playing shuffleboard – this is our system – I find it very difficult to support the status quo.

The point of this woman’s OP-ed above is that most Americans are as vulnerable as she is unless you are 65 or over. Working people are a pink slip away from losing their health insurance and many people once they are over 40 will have some pre-exisiting condition that will cause the insurance companies to turn them down. You do not need to have some rare disease like ALS to get turned down. More common conditions like diabetes and hypertension will do it as will any record of having cancer.

By the way the program that saved this woman’s life is a form assigned risk pools also long championed by Republicans including John McCain when he ran for President. The problem with these pools is they cost a lot of money and they would become dumping grounds for most Americans if the criteria was loosened up. Meaning why would employers offer health insurance if everyone was eligible for the assigned risk pool as a worst case option. Moreover, most of these pools and most Republican plans call for them to be administered by the states. States with their balance budget requirements can’t afford them and even the ones that do have them, cannot serve all who need them, which is why California has a huge waiting list for theirs – because they cannot afford to put everyone on, who wants to be on.

Lastly, I did not intend this to be partisan – because my main point is that both parties and most Americans are hypocrites when it comes to healthcare and how to pay for it. The Democrats nearly universally opposed Bush’s Medicare Drug plan -some even threatened to work for its repeal. Now that the program has proven popular despite it reliance on private companies to deliver it (the Democrats main objection – the “privatization” of Medicare) – you don’t hear a peep about opposition to it. In fact, Obamacare enhanced it, by starting to cover the “doughnut hole”.  Of course the use of private companies in Medicare Part D does not really make it private because the government shells out $60 billion plus a year to them to run the program. If it were truly private, it could be entirely supported by premiums from the seniors with no government money.

If George Bush had proposed Obamacare, the Republicans would have supported it as they did the Medicare drug benefit and Democrats would have opposed it. If Clinton proposed Medicare Part D, it would have been Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. Most of the opposition to one plan or another is not based on substance, but politics, not wanting to let the other side get credit for anything and this is a lousy way to run the country.