Health care sabotage 101

The GOP, not a botched website, is the real obstacle

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

It's the latest chapter of Barack vs. the Health Care Killers, The Continuing Saga of Posturing, Bad Faith, Spite and Ineptitude.

Republicans, who have used every trick in their playbook to gum up the works of the Affordable Care Act, are now holding hearings to investigate how the works got so gummed up.

They could save themselves the trouble by looking in the mirror, just as O.J. Simpson could have done to find his wife's killer. But that would rob them of the chance to grandstand.

In fairness, they do have one point. The Obama administration botched the debut of its insurance marketplace website so badly that it fairly begged for an investigation. And since Republicans had little or nothing to do with the website, the blame for its failures falls squarely on the president and his deputies.

The screw-up was a gift. GOP lawmakers were calling the law a failure before most of it went into effect, but lacking any evidence they had to rely on mere accusation. Now, finally, they can say that their worst predictions had some validity.

Nevertheless, Republican "outrage" over the glitches is hard to take seriously. If they're really looking to find what went wrong -- and there was plenty -- one suspects it's only so they can clone the virus. Then anyplace where the law is working, such as Kentucky, Washington and Oregon, they can infect the system, watch it crash, shake their heads and snicker.

Come on, folks. Republicans want to "fix" what's broken here as much as they want to "protect" women by targeting their reproductive rights and "defend" the vote by obstructing it. But because Healthcare.gov went live on the same day that the party crazies shut down the government over the law's funding, they were too deep in their own morass to capitalize on it. Worse, they had to fold on the shutdown without getting anything in exchange. No wonder they're pouncing on the chance to grill the people whose job it was to enable what they've called the worst law in the history of man.

Yes, the administration deserves to be on the hot seat. There was more than enough time to make sure the website worked properly and there is no excuse for its failure to do so.

Mr. Obama had to know that the first weeks would set the tone for public perception. If he had wanted to raise doubts about the program or shoo people away, he couldn't have done a better job of it.

Once again, we have to wonder what goes on in his mind. This legislation is only the most important accomplishment of his presidency. He put everything on the line for it. Millions of people are counting on it for coverage they cannot otherwise afford. If he can't get the introduction right, well, let's just say it's a good thing he's won't be running again.

But then there's that pesky caveat called perspective. A botched website, which can and will be repaired, is nowhere near the biggest obstacle to the success of health care reform. That distinction goes to the program's sworn enemies, who have been conducting a misinformation campaign of false claims and scare tactics since the law was passed. To hear them tell it, "Obamacare" will turn people into devil worshipping socialist homosexual vegetarians who want the terrorists to win. So of course they will do everything they can to stop it.

Exhibit One: The quickest and easiest way for states to enact the law's reforms is to expand Medicaid, which would trigger a huge infux of federal dollars for the first several years. Yet Republican governors in 26 states have refused to do so. The primary excuse is that they won't be able to afford it once the federal money stops. The subtext is that they'd rather sabotage the president than help their own citizens get the treatment they need. Thanks to them, according to a New York Times analysis, the new law will leave out two-thirds of the nation's black citizens and single mothers, and half of the low-wage workers who currently lack insurance.

In addition, GOP governors (including our own Tom Corbett and, regrettably, a few Democrats) have refused to create insurance exchanges that would facilitate reaching the uninsured. Instead, those people will have to go to the federal exchange.

They're also refusing to assist applicants and blocking the use of so-called "navigators," whose job is to help people understand the law and sign up for its benefits. When a constituent calls with questions, they are making sure they'll get no answers.

Then there was the government shutdown, during which Republicans offered more than 40 measures to cripple the law. They failed in every sense, but it still cost the country $24 billion.

It doesn't take a genius to see where the real obstruction lies. For all its screw-ups, the Obama administration is trying to make health care reform work. And for all their public posturing, Republicans are trying to ruin it. But the law was duly passed, it's here, and it's not going away. They should save the fake righteousness for a cause that isn't already lost.

Sally Kalson is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (skalson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1610).


First Published October 26, 2013 9:00 PM


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here