John Colson: The patient (the ACA) is sick, but it’s not dead
Hit & Run
Let’s stick to the high road here, and not allow ourselves to be dragged down into the political dirt of the day any further than can be helped.
Oh, I know, we’ve got a president who needs to see a shrink, or at the very least a dream counselor, in order to plug up the gaping hole in his psyche that makes him spend his mornings tweeting out the dumbest damned things, which seem mostly to be the worst remnants from his nightly forays into his id.
But arguing about whether our president is certifiably insane or, at best, mentally incompetent in the clinical sense, probably is not all that helpful right now. That’s because it is likely that even if he were found to be incompetent, his party would refuse to impeach him on the grounds that doing so would make all of its members appear equally insane.
I should acknowledge here that there appears to be a number of Republicans in Congress who still possess the ability to reason and make decisions based on facts, precedent and the needs of the people — I refer to the brave few who stood up last week and rejected the proposed “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
These few hardy souls include Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is suffering from a brain tumor but who nevertheless proved himself in better mental shape than the president when he signaled his vote against the repeal with a thumbs-down motion. The fact that his vote has been interpreted as payback for the president’s ridiculing McCain’s war record (and lengthy stay in a Vietnamese POW camp) back during the 2016 campaign, is merely icing on this particular legislative cake.
But, all that aside, what I want to address today is the ACA itself, which Republicans almost universally deride as “failed” and hated by all.
We know that such declarations are, naturally, a form of self-fulfilling prophecy that has been in use since the ACA was passed.
The Republican party has done all it could to see that the ACA never performed as well as it could have, including a little-known legislative trick in 2014 that reneged on a promised government-subsidized reimbursement plan to help insurance companies get over a couple of expected initial years of red ink.
The results of this steal were felt right here in Colorado (as well as several other states), when the once very popular Colorado HealthOp was forced to close its doors when Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar, acting on a request from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) that she investigate Colorado HealthOp’s financial status, concluded that when the feds reneged on the reimbursements, the co-op’s finances suddenly got very shaky and the insurer was no longer viable.
Of course, Gardner undoubtedly knew what the investigation’s outcome would be, having been briefed on the steal by his party’s leadership.
It was all part of the plan to cripple the ACA and then blame it on President Barack Obama and the Democrats, which in turn was part of the Republican Party’s stated objective of preventing Obama from achieving anything while in office. Can’t have a black man in the White House actually accomplishing things on behalf of the American public, you see — wouldn’t be politically prudent for the GOP.
But despite this and other underhanded efforts by the Republicans, the ACA is not dead.
Oh, it’s crippled, all right, and even before the GOP started pulling underhanded legislative sabotage the program had a number of inherent flaws.
But those flaws could have been worked out, and the program, which actually was pretty successful at eliminating some of the worse attributes of the insurance industry’s ownership of our health care system, can still be fixed.
For one thing, the White House and Congress, who clearly are not up to the task of coming up with an alternative to the ACA, should just admit it and start taking steps to stabilize the ACA marketplaces in all 50 states. That would go a long way toward eliminating the rampant uncertainty that the insurance industry is hiding behind as it boosts premiums, reinstates harmful policies from the pre-ACA days, and generally acts to protect itself at all costs while ignoring the health care needs of millions of subscribers to insurance plans across the nation.
Another option that might help stabilize the situation would be for the feds to immediately put together a “reinsurance” program that would prop up insurance companies that enroll the sickest, most expensive customers — those whose needs tend to drive up insurance premiums for everybody else.
Such an idea, according to a recent story in The New York Times, actually has some bipartisan support in Congress, now that the Republican-spawned “repeal and/or replace” regime has gone down in flames.
So why not just do it?
Another needed fix would be for the feds to open up negotiations with drug makers to put a lid on costs to consumers, who during this current atmosphere of chaos and fear in the marketplaces are being gouged beyond belief for medicines they need to live.
This is another area where Democrats and some Republicans, including the president, have agreed that something needs to be done quickly.
Again, why not just do it?
There are other ways that the ACA could be repaired and shored up, which would be inestimably better than simply letting the ACA go down the tubes and then come up with a mythical “deal” to replace it, as our president has suggested in tweet after tweet.
The ultimate answer to all these problems, I feel I must add, is to move to a single-payer system, nicknamed “Medicare for All,” as have practically all of the other industrialized nations of the world in some form or another.
That idea, too, once had significant bipartisan support during the early months of the Bill Clinton administration (in the early 1990s).
But it got fouled up in Republican misogyny early on, after Bill put Hillary in charge, and the ultimate result is the mess we are in now.
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