URBAN JOURNAL: Dems must get fired up over health-care law

BY MARY ANNA TOWLER

So Republicans have decided to make repealing the Affordable Care Act the focus of their campaign for the White House and Congress. The Supreme Court says the law is constitutional, but House Speaker John Boehner says it has to be “ripped out by its roots.”

This ought to be an easy fight for Democrats to win.

To throw out the law completely, Republicans have to gain enough Senate seats to fend off a Democratic filibuster: not likely. But they could cut off funding with a simple majority in the House and the Senate, virtually destroying the law. And yes, if President Obama is re-elected, he could veto the defunding. But imagine the hostility that would generate between Obama and Republicans, particularly if Republicans control both houses of Congress.

All of which makes it crucial for Obama to be re-elected and for Democrats to at least keep control of the Senate.

Republicans, backed by some loopy right-wing groups, are already rolling out their fear campaign, warning that liberty itself is at stake. That’s a smokescreen designed to obscure the Republicans’ goal of protecting pet special interests. The Democrats – those in safe seats in Congress, those in risky seats, and the president himself – should grab the Republicans’ threat and aim it squarely back at them: Elect Mitt Romney, and insurance companies can refuse to cover you if you’ve had cancer. Give Republicans control of the House and the Senate, and you’ll lose your health insurance if you lose your job.

For all its faults, there’s a lot to be proud of in the act. It’s time for the Democrats to stop cowering and start shouting down the law’s critics.

The Affordable Care Act does not establish a government-run health-care system. Doctors will not work for the government under this law, any more than they do under Medicare. We’ll still be able to get health insurance from private insurance companies.

And by the way: Hospitals are delighted with the court’s ruling. Under the current health-care system, they treat people with no health insurance but absorb the cost themselves. (The rest of us bear part of the cost, too, in higher hospital bills.)

The need for this law – and for further reforms, reducing costs, increasing accessibility – is clear. The law’s critics ignore the pain of Americans thrown into bankruptcy by medical bills, Americans who can’t get treatment for serious medical conditions, who have had yearly and lifetime limits placed on the amount of treatment they can get for serious illness.

That political leaders in the United States defend a system that rations health care based on income, job status, and health condition is unconscionable. And that message shouldn’t be hard to sell.

There are extremists who will never support the law, who either don’t care that millions of people don’t have access to decent health care or believe that such people don’t exist. But nothing indicates that those extremists are the majority. Many of the law’s critics wanted something stronger. Others, according to polls, aren’t clear about what the law provides.

The law’s critics on the left are correct; the law is far from perfect. It won’t cover everyone. It doesn’t rein in costs effectively. And because it relies on the private insurance industry, there is waste that shouldn’t exist.

But the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. And it is much, much better than what we have had, and much better than what we will get if Republicans destroy it.

Curiously, Republicans seem to have dropped their plan to focus the election campaign on jobs and the economy, a topic much more complicated, and harder for Democrats to discuss, than the Affordable Care Act. But so be it. Rather than feeling threatened by the Republicans’ move, Democrats ought to welcome it.

It’s time for them to get fired up and ready to go.

6 comments

  1. “Republicans, backed by some loopy right-wing groups, are already rolling out their fear campaign, warning that liberty itself is at stake. That’s a smokescreen designed to obscure the Republicans’ goal of protecting pet special interests. The Democrats – those in safe seats in Congress, those in risky seats, and the president himself – should grab the Republicans’ threat and aim it squarely back at them: Elect Mitt Romney, and insurance companies can refuse to cover you if you’ve had cancer. Give Republicans control of the House and the Senate, and you’ll lose your health insurance if you lose your job.”

    And you’re accusing Republicans of using scare tactics? Good. Grief. Your irony meter is apparently on the fritz.

  2. j.a.m. · · Reply

    The authoress believes in a Santa Claus fantasyland, where streets are paved with gold and sugarplums grow on trees of sterling silver.

    If you think a bunch of political hacks and technocrats can make things better by hijacking one-fifth of the economy, and dictating the most intimate personal decisions for three hundred million living, breathing human beings — well, you are simply out of your mind.

    The authoress and her ilk advise Obama to double down on the mindless demagoguery, when he’s already one of the most loathsome and dangerous demagogues in American history. The demagoguery hasn’t worked, and won’t, because most Americans are smart enough to realize that Obama has done nothing but put this country on the road to bankruptcy and ruin.

  3. Limits to medical care are being dictated today, by profit-generating insurance companies.

  4. Tom Janowski · · Reply

    I often wonder if the people strongly defending American healthcare when compared to healthcare in England, France or German have actually used our healthcare system. I constantly hear that Obama’s plan will limit doctor choice and cause long waits. That’s been happening for years. An example is the numerous doctors who have stopped being present for child birth. And don’t even get me started about long waits.

    I’ve had the misfortune of several emergency rooms visits, so via ambulance and far too many office visits and I can say that from my point of view as a patient, American healthcare has nothing to brag about or be proud of. Therefore, I’m not afraid of any changes to the system.

  5. James Scholl · · Reply

    Mary Anna, why not list in your paper all of the bullet points of the health care law and then factual clear explanations of each point underneath. People who would otherwise just skip the article will be drawn in by the bullets and may read the entire article. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, “The best defense of democracy is an informed electorate.” Newspapers of all stripes were key to informing the electorate in the past. Lets keep that tradition alive.

  6. ” why not list in your paper all of the bullet points of the health care law and then factual clear explanations of each point underneath”

    Kind of like what should have happened prior to passing the legislation?

    No personal disrespect intended, but this was chuckle-worth.

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