The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
What’s in a name? A lot, apparently. President Barack Obama embraced the Republican moniker Obamacare for his signature healthcare legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, turning this slight against him into a positive statement about him: Obama cares. And indeed, he did and still does. Though this naming has not been without its challenges, namely that until very recently over one-third of Americans believed that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were different things.
This confusion was no accident and part of the Republican messaging strategy for the past seven years. As people came to like many of the protections and benefits in the Affordable Care Act, Republicans spoke of the devastating effects of Obamacare and the need for its repeal and replacement. It didn’t matter that little of it was true. It allowed them to justify over sixty repeal votes in the House guaranteed to go nowhere and have a critical talking point to win elections by conning voters into supporting a tax credit to the rich while voting against their own health care needs.
Now that the Republicans have won majorities in both houses of Congress and have Donald Trump in the White House, they feel a mandate to continue what the people have asked for through their voting: repealing and replacing Obamacare. However, one big thing has changed. The people have wised up to the con perpetuated by Republicans in Congress and now Obamacare is more popular than ever. Voters are also wising up to the con pulled by Donald Trump in his campaign realizing he has no one’s interests in mind except his own. The people don’t want Obamacare repealed, they want it improved.
Nevertheless, Paul Ryan and his cronies are pushing forward on a health care bill that everyone knows is toxic. It has been widely reported that since this super secret health care plan became public that the people who will be hurt the most are the elderly, the poor, and those who are sick. In other words the people for whom health insurance should provide the most benefit and support.
One does not need to be a Nobel Prize winning economist like Paul Krugman to see the achievements of Obamacare and the deathly dangers of Trumpcare. Though as Hrafnkell Haraldsson regularly reports, Kruegman’s tweets and analysis are enlightening for understanding the various data points surrounding the health care debates. See the latest here. One only has to have a little care and compassion for their neighbor, especially the vulnerable among them. This is the care that President Obama manifested in working for reforms in health care law and meant when he said, Obama cares. It only takes a little caring to know that one should not lose their home because of illness. It only takes a little compassion to know that life-saving drugs and treatments should not be beyond reach.
It is fundamentally this care and compassion that the Republicans in Congress have lacked for years and continue to be without as they fear monger the public into accepting their health care plan. If the Republicans in Congress truly cared about the people and not simply giving tax cuts to the wealthy and appeasing their corporate donors, they would have used the past seven years to work on improvements to the Affordable Care Act.
Instead they whined and moaned and lied to the American people. They still have no workable plan they know it. Even within the Republican Party there are many who say it is too much like Obamacare and doesn’t go far enough in dismantling this literally life-saving legislation. Refusing to meet with constituents and attend town halls is evidence they have no acceptable answers for the people’s demands when it comes to their health care. And perhaps the most telling evidence of all is the refusal to embrace the moniker Trumpcare. They insist the bill must be referred to by its official name the American Health Care Act. An irony of epic proportions since its passage would wipeout health insurance for tens of millions especially the elderly, disabled, and poor. This is a death sentence brought to the American people by the party of “life” and “family values”.
By refusing to embrace the moniker Trumpcare not only are Republicans hoping to dodge responsibility for this toxic legislation should it ever pass. They are telling a deeper truth. They along with Donald Trump do not care and never will about the health of the American people. (Don’t forget about the votes to pollute the water!) However, Obamacare is still the law of the land, bearing our caring and compassionate former president’s name. Democrats in the House and the Senate are continuing the fight to maintain the protections and benefits that provide affordable and accessible healthcare to people across the country while also working to fix the problems in the Affordable Care Act and expand its reach.
It is long past time to move on from the repeal and replace debates and instead follow the intention of what President Obama meant when he said Obama cares. It is time to focus with care and compassion on the health care needs of all our neighbors but especially the vulnerable among them.