WASHINGTON, January 6, 2017 – No matter how it is spun, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a failure. The majority of Americans have suffered from drastically increased costs and higher deductibles as a result of this law. A mere 6 percent of the population has benefited by gaining significant reductions in premium costs, although many of these citizens have been shocked at ever increasing deductibles as well.
The end result: Taxpayers have been hosed, consumers have suffered and some insurance companies have sustained billion dollar losses to the bottom line by participating in the exchange market.
Yes, the ACA—known to most Americans as Obamacare—has insured about 20 million of the 50 million previously uninsured Americans. But, absent the critical details, that number ignores that another 200 million Americans are being forced to deal with skyrocketing premiums and deductibles so high that many don’t actually use the insurance they have paid for.
Worse still, countless Americans have lost those vital, sometimes lifesaving, long-term relationship with their now former primary care physicians—this after President Obama had assured them “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
Contrary to the flurry of media and opposition negativity, the GOP will come up with legislation in the near future designed to fix the myriad problems generated by the hastily and carelessly constructed ACA law. They will attempt to reach across the aisle to include Democrats in that solution, a step that President Obama should be actively encouraging.
Unfortunately, Obama—determined to save his legacy and his signature healthcare reform law while thwarting any Republican revisions—went up to Capitol Hill to meet Democratic lawmakers in a closed-door meeting to plot strategies to accomplish this aim.
CNN quoted sources who attended the meeting as saying that Obama “encouraged us to fight” and not to “rescue the Republicans,” a novel concept given that the current, dysfunctional ACA legislation never received a single Republican vote nor sought any input from the other side of the aisle.
Democrats responded to the President by promising aggressive resistance, claiming they would not participate in drafting a replacement law. This is exactly the wrong attitude to have and a missed leadership opportunity for President Obama.
President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, was much more inclusive in his comments on this upcoming battle, stating
“It is time for Republicans and Democrats to get together and come up with a healthcare plan that really works—much less expensive and far better.”
Trump’s key pitch—and precisely what has been missing from the executive and legislative branches of the Federal government since January 2009—is that Democratss and the GOP should “get together” to solve the problem rather than returning to the failed exclusionary tactics that doomed the original ACA to ultimate failure. Trump is trying to unify the country while Obama continues to divide it, exiting the presidency as he began it by continuing to insist that his way is the only, way.
The Affordable Care Act remains divisive and is still detested by a significant majority of Americans. That’s not because Republicans don’t want to see that all or nearly all Americans can obtain reasonably priced and effective health insurance covereage. It is because President Obama forced this law through Congress without input from the Republicans and without allowing members of Congress the time to read the law before voting on it. The result was that every Democrat in both houses blindly and loyally voted to pass the bill while every Republican voted against it.
Instead of seeking compromise with the GOP, Obama remarked that he had won the election so the voters clearly wanted the legislation to be done completely his way.
The problem for Americans is that the ACA is clearly crumbling. Few if any of the low-cost “health co-ops” encouraged under the law have survived. Participating insurers are bleeding red ink and abandoning the ACA wholesale, leaving citizens in most states with few if any of the many health plan choices they’d been promised. It has become abundantly clear that something must be done. President-elect Trump campaigned on the promise to “repeal and replace” the ACA as soon as possible. At the same time, the newly-seated Republican-majority Congress is busy working on fixing the many things that are broke in Washington, including the ACA.
Republicans are promising to introduce legislation to lower health insurance costs, keep the pre-existing condition clause. and continue to permit parents to provide insurance coverage for their children up to the age of 26.
Republicans point out that the current belongs to the Democrats, while the GOP didn’t want it that way. They would rather have had their input considered, in which case many of their number might actually have been able to support a bipartisan legislative solution. But Barack Obama did not want to work with the Republicans. We can only hope that the GOP will, as they promise, invite Democrats to help fix the law for the benefit of all the American people.
Such an approach is far from impossible.
Successful past presidents were able to negotiate with the opposing party to pass legislation that had at least some support from both parties, no matter how far apart their differences were. President Reagan negotiated successfully with House Speaker Tip O’Neill. President Clinton compromised with Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In both those administrations, laws were passed that worked for the majority of Americans, despite wide differences in opinion. Unsurprisingly, the country prospered under both administrations.
Today both sides of the aisle recognize that the current health care law does not work and is not supported by the majority of Americans. As such, the ACA will at least undergo significant changes, and may even be eliminated and replaced. But in order to find a lasting solution to this problem, compromise and cooperation will be needed.
In two weeks, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Americans elected him because he promised to solve problems, move the country forward and end the divisive Washington partisanship we have all endured for the last eight years. Even before he takes over the reigns of the Federal government, It looks like the President-Elect, along with the GOP Congressional majorities he will be leading, will be trying to do just that.