I won't give glowing praise for Democrats and a complete dismissal of Republicans on health care throughout the last century, because Democrats were only slightly better than Republicans when it came to fixing the complete mess our health care financing system has become.
But this isn't about history, it's about now. It's about the choices voters will face next week, and for at least the next several election cycles. Once again; we don't have a buffet of choices each election, despite your idealism. We have two choices in pretty much all races; a Democrat and a Republican. And right now, Democrats have taken steps to fix the health care financing system, and the Republican Party blocks them every step of the way and protects the status quo.
Two and a half years ago, Congress passed a historic reform of our health insurance system, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Every vote for passage of this bill came from a Democrat; not one Republican voted for it. This is not an indication of the bill's flaws, but rather an absolute statement that Republicans have no intention of supporting any health insurance reform. They added hundreds of amendments to the bill, and never had an intention of ever supporting it.
Congressional Republicans also failed to offer a realistic alternative plan that would have led to a significant expansion in coverage, which is an absolute must if we're ever going to get a handle on health care costs. The main reason inflation in the health care industry was twice the economy-wide inflation rate is because of the ever-increasing number of uninsured, especially those deemed by private insurance as "high risk" and therefore, unworthy of coverage.
People who are "risky" are more likely to need health care than the rest of us, so they'll eventually need health care, and it will likely be too expensive for them to pay. Unpaid bills lead to increased costs for those with insurance, because hospitals cannot and should not be expected to just eat the losses. In short, the more insurance companies act in their own best interest as corporations, the more it costs those customers who were paying premiums.
Obamacare, while imperfect, constitutes a major step in alleviating the problem, and providing coverage for everyone. Yet, the Republican Party has been fighting these rather modest reforms for years now. Even when the Supreme Court upheld the ACA as constitutional, the reaction from Republicans was instant, it was petulant and it was made crystal clear by every Republican with a microphone handy that they would so everything possible to repeal the entire bill. All of it.
Even Willard Romney has promised to repeal it if elected, despite the fact that Obamacare is largely based on Massachusetts' Romneycare. And he will want a second term, so he'll pretty much have to repeal all of it. Yes, I know he's said he'll only repeal part of it, but that won't be possible. Look at reality; Democrats want all of it, and most want to expand it, while Republicans want to return us to the previous status quo.
Democrats, for all of their faults, want to continue to reform the health care financing system. When problems crop up with ACA, they will try to fix them without threatening to scrap the entire system. And if you want a public option or single-payer, Obamacare can easily evolve into that with Democrats in charge, because there are elements of the ACA that make such a thing possible.
The Republicans, however, want us to return to the old failed system, because it made some people a whole lot of money. They don't care about anyone's health except their own, apparently. Because they are members of Congress, the Republicans who voted against Obamacare, and who advocate for its repeal to this day, have everything that is contained in the ACA and then some. They also don't pay a dime for it; we do. Not only that, but every single one of the Republicans who voted against making sure you had access to health insurance will have that fully-paid for, comprehensive heath insurance for the rest of their lives. Not one Republican has offered to give up his or her health insurance, even as they claim the ruination of everything should the system be reformed.
If you liked the old system, then count your lucky stars, because it means you're healthy. If you actually had to use the pre-Obamacare health care system, especially over the last 20 years, then you know how intrusive the insurers could be. When it comes to your health, the current Republican Party simply doesn't care. They consider their erroneous notion that "no one is turned away from the ER" to be a sign that everyone has access to health care.
That's certainly not true, of course. Not only are people turned away from the ER regularly, but emergency room bills are usually huge, and never get paid. If you care about your fellow Americans, and would rather they not be in the position of having to sell your home and every dollar you've ever saved because you happened to get sick or injured, you simply can't vote Republican.
Democrats love Obamacare, and take pride in it. And they should. I previously compiled a long list of what Obamacare does, and it's a lot more than people think. It enacts serious reform of the health insurance system, and it it fully customizable within the framework of universal health care, which is something this country has never had.
On the other hand, Republicans not only hate Obamacare, but they are so enamored with private health insurance that they want to take away Medicare – the most efficient and effective health insurance program in the country – and replace it with essentially unregulated (since they want to repeal Obamacare) private insurance.
While were not finished with reform, Obamacare represents a huge improvement over the old system. The ACA fixes some of the worst aspects of the system, but it doesn't eliminate them, and we need to eliminate them. Of course,the needed improvements simply won't happen if we allow the Republican Party to define the above as a failure and kill it.
The difference between the Democratic Party's approach to health care, and that of the current Repubican Party is like day and night. If we allow the Republicans to win, we will go back to the system that allowed 45,000 people to die every single year.
If Republicans win:
- Hundreds of thousands more Americans will be forced to live with major curable illnesses, without access to proper treatment.
- Hundreds of thousands more Americans will be forced into bankruptcy and lose everything they've worked for all of their lives.
- Millions more Americans will live with minor medical problems that could turn into more expensive major medical problems later.
- Millions more people will walk around with undiagnosed illnesses and infect others.
- Tens of thousands more people will die because of a lack of access to health care.
These are not just idle whines by a liberal whacko. These problems have dogged us for years, and continued to get worse until Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. Now, the future looks a least a bit brighter. We need more brightness, not more dark.
As for costs, Republicans are always talking about the incredible costs of Obamacare, and that's a complete load of garbage. Our health care costs already topped $2.7 trillion every year before the ACA. Before Obamacare, most of that cost was borne by the 85% of Americans who had health insurance. Fully 15% of the population was forbidden from paying into the system. The measures in the ACA will not only reduce overall costs because more people will get preventive care, but they will also reduce per capita costs, because virtually everyone will be paying into the system.
Even now, we've seen a difference. Before Obamacare, health care inflation was routinely in double digits over the last 20 years. Since the passage of Obamacare, the rate has already dropped to about 4%. There will be a small spike after the ACA is fully implemented, but it should settle down after that. More people covered for more things means less chronic and expensive treatments, and fewer ER visits for less-than-serious illnesses. That reduces costs for all.
Republicans think everyone paying into the insurance pool, and everyone receiving treatment before they need life saving care are bad things, because they don't increase an insurance company's bottom line. Republicans tell us more people contributing to the system will make things more expensive. They think controlling insurance company costs and making sure all medical bills are paid will make the system less efficient. None of that makes any sense, and is patently untrue. More people covered means all bills get paid. That means health care delivery companies don't have to shift their costs to others as much, which makes everyone's costs lower.
There's a major difference between Democrats and Republicans. Make sure everyone understand this.
Republicans only care about insurance companies' bottom lines, while Democrats care about the bottom lines of everyone, including yours and mine.
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