The biggest creators of “fake news,” as President Donald Trump likes to call it, aren’t in the liberal media. They’re Republicans in the United States Congress, and they’ve been churning out their phony, fanciful stories since the spring of 2010, when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans under the leadership of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell brainstormed how to oppose the ACA and what to do about it, and, The New York Times reports, it was an aide to McConnell who came up with the “repeal and replace” slogan that became part of GOP campaign boilerplate thereafter.
GOP leaders wished and wished for the ACA’s failure, and they got one wish granted when the program’s rollout had technical problems. Republicans immediately pounced, pronouncing disaster and applying the word “failure” to the ACA for the first time. Thereafter, they roiled about what they called “Obamacare,” a term guaranteed to appeal to the right-wing base that wished to rip President Obama’s victory in 2008 from the history books.
But now, with control of Congress and the White House, and with a bumbling president who ran against “Obamacare” and picked up the “repeal and replace” slogan, Republicans in the House are on the verge of passing a repeal that would be catastrophic for millions of Americans. Their “replacement” would roll back Medicaid expansion made possible by the ACA, and perhaps 10 million Americans would find themselves uncovered. Tax credits instead of subsidies to help pay insurance premiums for millions more would most certainly cause many people to fall short of what they needed. With the end of subsidies from the federal government, there would be tax cuts for wealthy Americans. And though there’s been talk from the president about cutting drug costs, no plan has come forward.
And all this when the many real facts about the ACA are good. It is not a disaster at all: the federal deficit is shrinking, not growing; growth in spending on health care and Medicare has slowed down; about 130 million people with preexisting conditions can get and afford insurance (the GOP says this will continue, but who knows?); seniors have had lower drug costs and more preventive care; more than 100 million people don’t have to worry about yearly or lifetime limits on insurance coverage; more children are insured than ever; the percentage of people in the U.S. who are uninsured has dropped by more than one-third.
The president promised many times that he’d have a replacement for Obamacare — which he repeatedly described as a “disaster” — that would make health care cheaper, better and affordable. But instead of standing up to Republicans to make them guarantee that in their plan now winging its way through the House, Trump’s just putting the heat on to pass a repeal and this haphazard replacement quickly, all so he can boast of some accomplishment early on in his presidency.
But there’s a big problem. “Obamacare” isn’t the failure Republicans are trying to convince people it is. More than 20 million people have insurance under the ACA. And while premiums for some have gone up, the increases aren’t much for people with subsidies. People who are covered thanks to the ACA are in most cases satisfied. And the federal deficit did not explode as Republicans forecast it would. The private health care industry didn’t collapse. And no less than the American Medical Association is opposed to what Republicans are trying to do, because doctors and hospitals recognize that under the GOP plan, millions of people will lose their insurance, which means they’ll get sicker, which means some will die.
Cooler heads unfortunately are no longer in Congress. Former Speaker John Boehner, essentially run off by tea partyers, said recently of the health care fuss: “I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.”
Perhaps Boehner will be proved right in the end. But it appears that for now, chaos is coming.