Don’t believe Scott Walker or Rick Scott on Obamacare
There’s an amusing anecdote circulating on the World Wide Information Superhighway these days about a kid who throws a tantrum in a Burger King, demanding his mother buy him the popular eatery’s signature pastry, the pie. The precocious, cherub-cheeked (one assumes) 5-year-old yowls, “I want a ****ing pie” and punches his mother while the mother assiduously ignores the child.
A man in line ahead of the child, feeling a headache brewing and fed up with the kid’s shrieks, arrives at the counter and buys every pie in the house — 23 in all — just to spite the kid. (And presumably to teach him a lesson, though it’s more fun to assume the deed was done out of pure contempt.)
To be honest, the story sounds almost too good to be true, but one is reluctant to rush to Snopes.com to check its authenticity because it’s just so wonderful. It’s a great parable that perfectly illustrates a lesson we all learned as kids and instinctively understand: If you throw a temper tantrum, you should be punished, and you definitely shouldn’t get your way.
For years, just about everyone in this country understood that our health care delivery system needed to be reformed. Unlike almost every industrialized country on the planet, we failed to cover a large percentage of our population. Meanwhile, we spent more per capita on health care (by a long shot) and for the most part got worse results.
So Barack Obama — naïve waif that he is — thought the best approach to solving this problem would be to reach across the aisle from the outset and embrace a Republican-conceived fix that would give far more Americans access to health care while keeping private-sector health insurance companies in the game.
His plan was modeled after a proposal from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and most closely resembled RomneyCare, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s successful health care reform plan, which lowered his state’s uninsured rate from 8.4% to just 3% in four years.
Naturally, Republicans across the country, who had been skeptical about Barack Obama’s presidency initially, reassessed the president and his motivations, now convinced he was willing to work in good faith with conservatives to hammer out the best possible plan for the American people, many of whom were suffering because they couldn’t afford insurance, were denied insurance because they’d been sick in the past, or were threatened with bankruptcy because the insurance they had turned out to be dangerously inadequate …
(Pause for spit-take)
… or so it would have been had we lived in a world where the Republican leadership didn’t make Burger King Pie Kid look like the Dalai Lama on chamomile tea and ape tranquilizer.
No, for having the temerity to address our dysfunctional health care system through a largely Republican plan, Obama was called a dictator, socialist, socialist dictator, tyrant, terrorist fist-pounder, and just about anything else you can imagine.
Oh, but now that Obamacare is lowering uninsured rates across the country — especially in states, according to Gallup, that embraced the law — Republicans are forced to tweak their messaging.
In Wisconsin, where Gov. Walker rejected Medicaid expansion and talked down the law at every opportunity, the response has ranged from Orwellian to Dickensian.
Despite refusing to fully implement the law, Walker has attempted to take credit for its success, running a TV ad earlier this year that stated, “[Wisconsin] families are planning vacations and more are going to sleep knowing they have access to health care.”
He’s right, of course. And fewer manatees have been maimed by outboard motor blades since Walker became governor. Correlation or causation? You be the judge!
Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson hates Obamacare so much, he’s doing his darndest to screw over his own staff. He filed a lawsuit — which was recently thrown out — to prevent congressional staffers from receiving a federal contribution toward their insurance premiums. Of course, Johnson is trying to capitalize on the pervasive myth that Congress exempted itself from the Affordable Care Act, which is absolutely not true. In fact, Congress imposed unusual — and largely pointless — requirements on congressional staffers that other Americans don’t face. (For a thorough breakdown of this issue, click here.)
The point is that Johnson has nothing better to do with his time than try to make sure his staff takes an unnecessary pay cut. Quite the gentleman.
Of course, for conservatives who are hoping to fluff up their fading case against Obamacare, there’s hope.
As Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, recently noted, average health care premiums in his state are projected to increase 13.2%. This finding prompted the governor to cry some Gator tears and breathlessly declare, “Obamacare is a bad law that just seems to be getting worse. Florida families are going to be slammed with higher costs.”
Well, yes and no. And the “yes” part demands an explanation.
As political journalist Simon Maloy recently noted on Salon.com:
Florida was one of the many states that refused to expand Medicaid and refused to build their own health insurance exchange. But Rick Scott went a step further and turned the state into a laboratory of anti-Obamacare activism. He and the state Legislature passed a law last June that temporarily suspended the ability of state regulators to negotiate with insurance companies on premiums for individual insurance plans. At the time, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson accused Scott of doing pretty much exactly what he’s doing right now: “Nelson … contended in his veto request that legislators removed state rate regulation in order to blame the health care overhaul if rates go up.”
In addition, the 13.2% figure is highly misleading. According to a White House analysis, costs for the silver-level “benchmark” plan, which a majority of Obamacare enrollees choose, are actually going down.
The administration’s analysis found that the “benchmark plan” in Florida would actually decline by 4 percent statewide. In some places, it will drop as much as 17 percent, and roughly 75 percent of Florida’s residents live in areas where the “benchmark plan” will decrease from 2014 to 2015, the analysis showed.
So whether it’s Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, or Rick Scott, there’s one surefire way to tell if a Republican is misleading you on Obamacare. His lips are moving — and securely attached to a Koch Brother’s bottom.
Obamacare is hardly perfect — and, certainly, it would be nice to get some congressional help in fixing its problems — but at least it’s trying to address the worst failings of our health care system.
Unfortunately, after throwing a childish four-year tantrum over the law, Republicans across the country are hoping to capitalize on both its successes (which they had nothing to do with) and failures (which, in many cases, they directly contributed to).
Please. Don’t let them.
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