Filed under the heading of useless government action; the Republican House (and three Democrats) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In truth, they voted for the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, a magnificent example of snake-oil salesmanship. The action has no real political meaning; the Senate will never see the legislation because Republicans don’t have the votes to either open the debate or invoke cloture to force a vote. If the Senate were to pass a complement, President Obama would veto the action, and there aren’t enough votes in the House to override his veto.
But lets set aside the action, and move swiftly to the conservative premise for its taking. “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, is the title, and it purports to explain the reason the GOP moved against the law. It isn’t immediately apparent why a law that addresses the principal source of American industry’s lack of competitiveness with European business would be a job killer. But Speaker Boehner has an answer, and his answer is a stunning example of hypocrisy and economic smoke and mirrors. We all, I am sure, remember that time long ago (two weeks ago), when the Speaker dismissed the CBO as “opinion”. We all also remember when then-Minority Leader Boehner consistently slammed the CBO over its scoring of the bill as a deficit-reducer.
Once again, Republican leadership has found a use for the CBO in the form of a number they like. This is the same group only too happy to point out the CBO’s score for the original House health care bill, a bill that cost more than $1.5 trillion and expanded the deficit. They were only too happy to point out the CBO’s report on Cap and Trade legislation, a bill that would have pushed a couple of hundred dollars per year in extra energy spending onto households. They like CBO numbers that look bad to the public. Now as they mount their Tea Party-extracted promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have found a number in the CBO score that works for them if they twist, spin, and frame it just right.
In the CBO’s report, “The legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount — roughly half a percent— primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply,”. Jobs won’t be killed, according to the report, people who can obtain health care outside of current employment will opt out of those jobs. The Republican report created to support their bill’s title extrapolated the 650,000 jobs lost number from that sentence; one sentence in a report from an agency they have consistently slammed. They filled out their report with a number of other out of date and difficult to support claims. One claim, regarding the effect of legislation on small business jobs, was refuted by the group (the National Federation of Independent Business) that produced the original report.
Silly bill titles and the easy to refute reports created for their justification, are usually the result of desperate political action. That is the case with the Affordable Care Act. The legislation that Republicans sold out to stop, started closing the Medicare prescription donut hole with checks to seniors last year, and adds more Rx savings by mandating a 50% discount on premiums this year and the beginning of subsidies on generic prescriptions. The law is providing rural primary care doctors and general surgeons with a 10% bonus for Medicare services this year, helping to expand supply in under-served areas. Dozens of real benefits were started last year and dozens more will begin this year and next, all pursuant to the law that the House voted to repeal.
Making a bad situation worse for Republicans is the reality that the first heavily publicized results from the Affordable Care Act were massive increases in the amount of small businesses and their employees obtaining health insurance. These results were confirmed by insurance companies happy with sales increases, and reported in conservative outlets like Forbes and the LA Times. Support for health care reform has stabilized, and more Americans want to see how this law works before trying for its repeal. Even among registered Republicans, the repeal effort is losing strength.
The same CBO report that serves as the foundation for the current repeal effort says that repealing the law would increase the deficit by $230 billion; almost one-third the cost of the Stimulus Law. With numbers like that coming from a non-partisan agency that, this week at least, is trusted by Republicans, it is clear why support for the strident move of repeal is waning. Conservatives lost the political battle over health care reform because they have never addressed it with anything approaching honesty or rational problem-solving. They had virtual control of the government in 2001 and 2002, and absolute control from 2003 through to January of 2007. During that time, they made no effort to address the declining numbers of Americans with insurance, the skyrocketing percentages of revenues written off by hospitals and doctors every year, or an industry inflation rate 4-5 times higher than the nation’s overall rate.
Now, they want to repeal a law based on the conservative ideals of market-based reform (rather than the liberal idea of single-payer health care), and write something on their own. Didn’t they already have that chance? Didn’t that chance already pass them by? The health care reform battle extended for a full year. While I was reading bills online, Republican lawmakers and the pundits who support them, were busy telling Americans that the bill was “being crafted in secret”. While many of us were debating different market reforms, tax incentives, and procedural fixes to a market that no longer operated according to supply and demand, Republicans politicians were perpetuating the hysterical lies about Marxism and Death Panels that invaded our civil discourse. The GOP had its chance on health care, and they blew it. Affordable Care will stand and, I believe, will be successful. The GOP, for its own sake and that of its constituents, would do well to get off this road to nowhere and return to rational legislating.
The Rational Middle is listening…