Unhealthy vote: Insured Republicans would deny benefits to others
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The sight Wednesday of House members with excellent government-funded health insurance voting to deprive 30 million Americans of a government-organized insurance plan was disturbing. But this symbolic attempt by Republicans once again to kill the federal health care law -- Obamacare, as they derisively call it -- was clarifying.
It wasn't just the hypocrisy and callousness of the 244-185 vote -- the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law for the most part constitutional. It was the startling disconnect of the exercise. This vote was all about power and politics, not the needs of the people or the economy.
Although some of its provisions now apply, the Affordable Care Act is not fully in place. Yet there was House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying that the bill was making the economy worse, driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire.
His were crocodile tears. What did the Republicans do in the early Bush years when they had a chance to curb spiraling health care costs?
Many of them opposed Hillarycare, too, in the 1990s, although that led to one good thing. As an alternative, the conservative Heritage Foundation suggested an individual mandate, which would become the basis for Gov. Mitt Romney's successful initiative in Massachusetts. He now renounces that and promises, if he wins the presidency, to overturn the supposed tyranny of the federal Affordable Care Act that was modeled after his plan.
And replace it with what? That is what the House Republicans could not adequately answer. They have no comprehensive plan of their own, certainly not one that will cover millions of uninsured Americans. At best they will fiddle at the edges, putting their faith in free enterprise while refusing to admit the previous health care setup was dysfunctional.
Because the Affordable Care Act is still unpopular in public opinion polls, the House Republicans have bet that their latest repeal vote (which will get nowhere in a Senate controlled by Democrats) will work to their benefit in November's presidential election
Only now they can't say the law is unconstitutional -- and with its advantages becoming ever more clear (children are covered under parents' insurance until age 26, pre-existing conditions cannot be held against patients, and much more) -- the bet looks less certain.
The do-nothings in the do-nothing Congress have had their vote. Maybe that will prove the more important symbolism.
First Published July 14, 2012 12:00 am