Once upon a time, in a dystopia far far away, former President Donald Trump decreed that Obamacare shall die. In his memorable words, “What we want to do is terminate it.”
How’d that work out?
Not only did Obamacare survive the Mar-a-Lago loser – and 10 years of attempted Republican sabotage – but today it’s more alive than ever. Because one of the most under-reported aspects of the American Rescue Plan are its provisions to bolster and expand the Affordable Care Act.
We need to take notice before the news cycle inevitably moves on, because this is historic news for 20 million Americans whose coverage had long been targeted by GOP saboteurs – and for potentially millions more who can sign up with new federal help.
Thanks to Joe Biden, who campaigned on a promise to “protect and build on the ACA,” we should rename it NoMalarkeyCare.
We’d been so conditioned for so long to endure bad news that we now often need an attitude adjustment in order to process something good. But it’s all there, tucked away in the rescue plan: Higher subsidies for people who buy health coverage through the ACA exchanges, brand new subsidies for people who weren’t eligible before, and hefty financial aid to red states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the ACA.
As medical experts point out, “Medicaid expansion is critical to vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
It’s hilarious to think back to 2017, when Trump held a victory party in the Rose Garden after House Republicans, then in the majority, passed a bill that was designed to cripple what he called the “ravages” of Obamacare. (That quest later died in the Senate.)
Lest we forget, this was the party that tried and failed umpteen times to kill the coverage of 20 million Americans, the party that refused to accept that Obamacare was the law of the land even after the Supreme Court upheld it twice. (A third Republican challenge to overturn the entire ACA was argued in the high court last fall, but the betting is that it too will fail.)
Yes, it’s fun in retrospect to highlight the GOP’s greatest rhetorical hits. Like when they warned about Obamacare’s “death panels.” (There were no death panels). And when House Speaker John Boehner warned that Obamacare would usher in “Armageddon.” And when they predicted that few Americans would bother to sign up. And when Mitch McConnell said, “I don’t think Albert Einstein could make this thing work.” And when fellow Senator John Thune said the law was “destined to fail.” And when virtually all of them consulted the GOP talking-point cheat sheet and chanted the phrase “train wreck.”
It’s brain-dead politics to think you can win by vowing to take away something that Americans have, a lesson Republicans should’ve learned in 2018, when Democrats captured the House after campaigning to protect Obamacare. And you certainly can’t win by replacing something with nothing. Republicans had a full decade to come up with something better than Obamacare, but let’s face it, health reform featuring a robust federal role is not something that Republicans do.
I’m reminded of what happened in 1935, when the New Deal Democrats introduced the concept of Social Security. Republicans predictably dissed that law too. New Jersey Republican Senator A. Harry Moore warned that Social Security “would take all the romance out of life. We might as well take a child from the nursery, give him a nurse, and protect him from every experience that life affords.” That law was rickety at the outset, but once it got traction, it was improved and expanded in subsequent legislation. Today, I doubt you’ll find a single grassroots Republican, senior or disabled, who refuses a Social Security check.
So put your hands together for a Biden-buttressed Obamacare. When the original was signed into law in 2010, the vice president was overheard ballyhooing the event as “a big f-ing deal.” This one is even bigger.
Once again, Republicans have been reduced to history’s roadkill.
Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].