A Sleeping Giant Awakens
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A Sleeping Giant Awakens

BY MARION HILL

Repealing ObamaCare is dead. For now. That doesn’t mean the Republicans have given up trying to get rid of the law, or to make health care more expensive and/or less available for lots of families.

I would argue that the long period of uncertainty over what GOP legislators would do to the Affordable Care Act is largely responsible for the decision of some insurance companies to pull out of many markets around the country. This leaves people in those counties with only one insurance provider, so there’s no competition to make that one company lower its premiums and provide better coverage.

Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone? Just predict ObamaCare will fail and then do everything you can to make it fail.

“ObamaCare has problems, so let’s make them worse” seems to be the R’s slogan. Thanks a lot, GOP. Weren’t you sent to DC to solve problems, not create more?

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Research, in a recent column titled “Killing the Landmark Program Would be Wrong,” notes that experts who study the healthcare issue state that – contrary to the drivel regularly spouted by Trump and his allies – the healthcare exchanges “have largely stabilized and insurers are now able to operate profitably.”

The experts he’s referring to include the Congressional Budget Office, the Kaiser Family Foundation and others who are anything but partisan hacks.

Let’s connect the dots. Insurers are not pulling out of markets because they can’t make money by insuring people in those places. They’re pulling out because of uncertainty. Insurance companies hate uncertainty.

So Republican lawmakers have been making sure there was plenty of it.

Baker goes on to say that “the lack of competition in the exchanges is primarily a problem for people who live in states controlled by Republicans.

“More than 20% of the people who live in states with Republican governors only have one insurer in their exchange. Only 2% of the people who live in states with Democratic governors live in a county with a single insurer.”

In case anyone should miss his point, he makes it crystal clear: “… most Republican governors did not want ObamaCare to succeed, while most Democrats did.”

Expansion of Medicaid is a big part of the way ObamaCare provides coverage to more people. And Republican governors [including the Oklahoma disaster named Mary Fallin] mostly did not expand Medicaid. No, they’d rather turn down free money from the federal government to insure their neediest citizens than admit that something good, worthwhile, and decent happened on President Barack Obama’s watch.

Take that, poor kids, elderly citizens, and anyone for whom a serious medical condition could cause a devastating financial burden. You had to suffer while Fallin bestowed more largesse on greedy billionaires and oil companies in the form of tax cuts and tax exemptions.

Even when Republican governors have taken Medicaid expansion money, they often have not aggressively promoted the exchanges. Therefore, fewer healthy people have signed up for insurance than would almost certainly have happened with real promotion.

And, of course, having a good proportion of healthy folk in the exchanges is what makes the system work well.

But it was never Republicans’ plan to try to make the Affordable Care Act work. Their goal was to kill it. Unfortunately for their scheme, ObamaCare has proved livelier than they’d anticipated and is much more popular now than in its infancy.

Thus we’ve seen the fiasco of Republican lawmakers trying to ram through a bunch of unpopular bills – to either repeal and replace, or simply to repeal, ObamaCare – all concocted behind closed doors, away from the curious eyes of either their fellow Democratic lawmakers or the general public whose healthcare they were trying to destroy.

But they didn’t reckon with having to face that public thronging their campaign offices, jamming their phone lines, and generally threatening their jobs if affordable health care should go away.

That’s one thing that entrenched politicians tend to forget: the citizenry put them there, and it can take them out. Sometimes abruptly and painfully.

Granted, it’s too bad that citizens weren’t more alert much earlier. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to stand on a precipice looking down into the abyss, as the R’s have forced us to do lately.

But citizens are aroused now. You betcha we are.

Marion Hill lives in Durant, OK and is a frequent contributor to The Oklahoma Observer

August 10, 2017

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