Republicans have a lot of nerve. After years of attempts
to stall, dismantle and repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, they are back at it, cavalierly putting party before the health and well-being of the nation's citizens, particularly, now, the ones who are women.
Planned Parenthood provides lifesaving services like exams, breast cancer screenings, HIV testing and cervical cancer screenings. Defunding Planned Parenthood would be an additional act of willful disrespect with serious consequences for women, tagged to the outrage of Republicans' long-term assault on Obamacare itself.
Indeed, despite Supreme Court rulings upholding
key provisions of the act, and despite the tens of millions of previously vulnerable Americans who now have health insurance, GOP leaders and our President-elect would like us to ignore the reality before our eyes and believe this historic reform measure is somehow a failure.
Well, as one of some 20 million Americans
who has gained health insurance coverage because of the ACA, I'd like to emphatically say: Don't be duped by slick talking points or 140-character tweets; Obamacare is a significant achievement and it's time we get the story straight.
Unfortunately, you can have the most innovative, groundbreaking and progressive ideas, but if you can't sell them, then you might as well admit defeat from the onset. While the ACA was an attempt to improve upon our existing health care system, it was still a product that needed to be sold to the American consumer. What happens when you don't establish your own narrative? Someone else will do it for you.
And so, you had Sarah Palin accusing the ACA of including "death panels" that would decide on insuring the elderly, a completely fabricated idea (and 2009 winner of Politfact's "Lie of the Year" award
); you had Rush Limbaugh calling it
"the largest tax increase in the history of the world" --not even close — and a steady stream of other fear-mongering aimed at scuttling the ACA's success. The tea party itself came to prominence in part with the nonsensical purpose of stopping a "government takeover of health care,"
and a supposed government takeover of everything.
Such precise word-craft worked well for the GOP in 2010, allowing Republicans to galvanize their base in opposition and pummel Democrats in the midterm elections. And even in the years since the ACA became the law of the land, President Obama and the Democrats have still somehow failed on the PR front.
But the reality of millions of Americans has filled in the blanks.
Word-of-mouth and real-life results have sold Obamacare as these Americans have experienced its benefits themselves.
Indeed, in addition to those covered through the ACA, millions of others are enjoying the advantages of Obamacare likely without realizing it.
Companies with at least 50 employees are now required to provide health insurance, children can stay on their parent's insurance until age 26, those receiving Medicare benefits now get free preventive screenings, and insurers can no longer refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Those are just a few of the universal benefits of the mischaracterized and often misunderstood health care legislation.
When Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday to tout their efforts to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, Ryan said the American people need more choices, not a costly government takeover.
Let's take the first part: Do we need more choices? Absolutely. But is the ACA a government takeover of the health care system? Far from it. In fact, it ended up looking pretty much like an earlier plan
once blessed by Republicans, and similar to Romneycare
, which was enacted in Massachusetts under Republican Gov. Mitt Rommey.
Second point: These are still private insurance companies within the same health care system; they have not been "taken over" by the government. There isn't even a public option (government-run plan) available, which itself was the compromised version of single-payer. While some Americans may be disappointed or dislike the ACA, the reality is that many believe it doesn't go far enough.
In May 2016, Gallup conducted a poll that found that 58% of US adults favored replacing the ACA
with a federally funded health care system that provides insurance to all Americans.
In other words, they wanted more government "takeover."
So, when Republicans say that families are hurting, they are right; Obamacare is running into problems because it didn't do enough to reform the system, and Democrats, as they always do, compromised away so much
that the final product was essentially a flawed Republican plan.
And because President Obama and Democrats capitulated relentlessly without effectively articulating the benefits of this historic law, they are now being blamed for rising costs and fewer insurance options in the marketplace.
Is Obamacare perfect? Absolutely not. It is a starting point that our current President had hoped would be built upon via slow, incremental changes on a progressive trajectory.
For 2017, the costs of my own health insurance plan increased significantly, so I switched to a less expensive one, but one that had higher copays and deductibles. Am I happy about this? Of course not. But I also clearly remember what it was like to go seven years without any health insurance. The painstaking process of putting off a doctor's visit until absolutely necessary and then being treated like some sort of a burden when I didn't have coverage is not something I'd ever like to experience again. Nobody wants to go through that.
Two years ago in the middle of the night I found myself suffering a severe asthma attack that required more than a rescue inhaler. I went to the emergency room to get a few treatments and was held for about five or six hours until my lungs cleared and my breathing improved. I paid a $100 copay for the ER visit, and my insurance covered the rest. That scenario was unimaginable for me before passage of the Affordable Care Act, and my ability to obtain insurance because of it.
Republican leaders love to denounce Obamacare and have consistently run against it time and again because it has worked for them quite effectively. Democrats were, let's face it, incompetent in getting the message to the public — loud and clear — about what precisely they were doing to improve their lives.
That leads us to today. If Republicans insist on "repealing and replacing" the ACA, then they must show and prove what specifically they will be replacing it with. They must ensure that we will not be left without a safety net.
After all, the millions of us who have benefited from this unprecedented legislation deserve to know that we can continue to breathe a little easier.