Re-evaluating Obamacare: Focus on hard facts, fixing economy over rhetoric

Nicholas Riebel, Staff Writer ||

We all know what the narrative has been on Obamacare. It’s a socialist nightmare, a political disaster for the Democrats, and the gift that keeps on giving to the Republican Party. It is an extraordinarily unpopular mess that the Tea Party rightly points to as proof of the failure of liberalism. This bill will kill small businesses, hurt Wall Street, increase unemployment, and will ultimately make the health care crisis in America far worse than it already is.

It is true that this bill hurt the Democrats tremendously in 2010, and may be poised to do the same in 2014. Yet it is important to remember: 2012 was a good year for the Democrats in spite of Obamacare. It is not necessarily a bad thing for the Democratic party, and if it does well it could actually help the Democrats in 2014 and beyond.

The irony about all this is that Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act) is actually a pretty conservative bill. If you do a bit of research on it, and the demonized “individual mandate” you will see that it has its roots in the Heritage Foundation, and is at least partially inspired by former Kansan Senator and Republican Majority Leader Bob Dole, and former Massachusetts Republican governor and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

This was by no means what liberals, or even what most Democrats wanted. If you remember, there was a strong push by progressives for President Obama to include a “public option” in Obamacare, which would have lowered health insurance costs by offering a governmental healthcare alternative to the insurance companies. Though conservatives and Republicans usually love economic competition, they hated this idea, and in the spirit of bipartisanship it was discarded in favor of much more conservative- friendly ideas, such as Medicare buy in (which would have been okay if it was not rejected by the very same conservative Senator who had originally proposed it, Joe Lierberman).

A single-payer health care system was never on the table, (regardless of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid already in existence), much less a truly “socialist” health care idea, like socialized medicine in Cuba or for the U.S. military and our veterans (see article).

No, we went with a significantly watered down health care plan that liberals certainly did not want, and which President Obama desperately hoped the Republicans would accept. In order to hurt President Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans obstructed and opposed “Obamacare” as much as possible, and blamed the Democrats for refusing to be bipartisan. After months of frustration with his GOP rivals, President Obama managed to get the Affordable Care Act signed in early 2010, despite knowing by this point that he was dooming many Democrats to electoral defeat in 2010 and perhaps beyond. Perhaps he was dooming himself politically as well. He still may not know for sure if he has.

Whether you agree with our President on this or not, it is clear that he was trying to do what he thought was right. The easy thing for him to do was nothing, and expend no political capital, or take any risk on something as tricky as universal health care. But he was willing to risk his presidency and the short to medium term defeat of his party to do this.

Which brings us to today. With reports that registration for Obamacare is doing better than expected, and it is becoming more popular (with the individual pieces of it more popular than the overall bill, likely due to conservative propaganda) it may actually be popular.

Don’t get me wrong: a public option or single payer system would have been a much better way to go. But a center-right solution to the problem which can be fixed and made better is preferable to having done nothing to fix our healthcare system. And our president, and the Democrats, need to be commended for that. I’ll leave it to you to what should be done to the Republicans who blocked any attempt to even try to bring down healthcare costs and improve healthcare quality.

It may still fail, or turn out to be much less successful than the President has hoped. But let’s focus on fixing our economy and nation rather than futilely try to overturn what has been approved by the conservative Supreme Court and is now the law of the land.

Nicholas Riebel is a freshman staff writer. Email him at nriebel@fandm.edu.

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