Bergercare vs. Obamacare

February 12, 2013 

Ambition can get ahold of a fellow. Now in its grip, apparently: Phil Berger, the state Senate president pro tem, leader of the Republicans.

Berger certainly seems to be putting on quite a push for higher office. Rumor has an interesting run shaping up as Republicans maneuver to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, who’s likely to run for re-election in 2014.

Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis have allied on Jones Street to push through a Republican agenda to deny health insurance options for lower income people, to install a Voter ID law that may curb voting by minorities and the elderly and other unenlightened measures. But they are said to part over who should be the next Republican senator from North Carolina. Each likes the potential candidate he sees in the mirror.

Sounds a little like the Hatfields fighting the ... Hatfields.

Anyway, Berger is circulating an online petition on his campaign website to see whether people want to pat him on the back for trying to curb the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform called “Obamacare” by Republicans. Berger’s petition is called “Stop Obamacare in North Carolina,” and it asks people to sign up.

The protector

Berger’s petition says a Republican-backed Senate bill refusing to set up state-sponsored health insurance exchanges or expand Medicaid “protects us from government turning our health records over to the IRS; government-forced insurance; billions in new taxes on businesses and the people of North Carolina.”

The implication is that Berger is astride a white horse leading a crusade to stop “Obamacare.” The problem is it’s not exactly true.

Berger, an attorney, knows that the health care reform law has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Berger and his Republican allies are attempting to build political support with those who don’t like the law by pretending that it can be undone by ignoring it.

Berger’s claims may appeal to dead-enders on the Affordable Care Act, but a successful U.S. Senate candidate will need a broader base. How many friends will Berger make among the 500,000 people who will be denied Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance plan for the poor, thanks to Republicans in the legislature? The entire cost of having those people on the rolls would be paid for the first three years by the federal government, and 90 percent thereafter would be covered. Berger, Tillis and now Gov. Pat McCrory say no.

Benefits many

Then there are those, who by 2014, will be able to get affordable health insurance without fear of being rejected by companies worried about pre-existing conditions. There are sick children, previously unable to get insurance, now eligible for it. Reform, in other words, has helped and could help millions of people, some of them in North Carolina. But Republicans, with Berger out front, oppose all that. Their hatred for a twice-elected president trumps good sense. And truth.

Berger’s petition claiming Obamacare can be stopped is debunked by experts. The IRS won’t get health records. It will require taxpayers to submit a form certifying they have health insurance. Berger and his Senate also can’t stop health insurance exchanges that will offer people a marketplace for coverage. If the state won’t do it, the federal government will. It’s the law. And the government’s not making people buy insurance, but it is going to fine those who don’t have it. The uninsured, after all, help drive up the cost of coverage for everyone else.

Yes, there will be some new taxes, but Berger’s rhetoric is exaggerated. There will be a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for high earners and an excise tax on indoor tanning services. And some others.

Berger’s petition appears to be a pure political ploy to help him collect names from people who buy this baloney and might be interested in supporting him for, oh, a U.S. Senate campaign. He’ll have a nice mailing list all ready. And while this kind of stuff might be expected in an ambitious beginner with an eye on higher office, Berger has a leadership position and shouldn’t resort to this kind of political grandstanding.

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