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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hating Health Care

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We happened to be in Washington, D.C., during the historic passage of health care reform, an achievement that visionary Democratic and Republican presidents had sought for three-quarters of a century.

That same day, we walked from the White House to the National Mall with tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters waving American flags to demonstrate their desire to be included as equals in a country where they often encounter hatred.

“No Human Being Is Illegal,” said one particularly moving banner.

With so much idealism in the air, I couldn’t resist asking a few simple questions of a couple of stray Tea Party demonstrators when I found myself standing next to them waiting for a light to change. The man and his wife looked like average, middle-class, white Americans. But they had gone to the trouble to make two enormous signs demanding “Kill the Bill!” and “Stop the $ Madness!” They were lugging them for blocks toward the Capitol.

I asked them if they had health insurance. When they said yes, I asked: “Aren’t your co-pays and premiums going up outrageously the way ours are?”

The man said, yes, but only because his employer had switched insurance companies. Apparently, he didn’t know that employers typically switch insurance companies because rates would have increased even more had employers stayed with the old company.

His wife said health care costs would come down if insurance companies were permitted to sell policies across state lines—a Republican proposal to increase the profits of big insurance companies that health economists agree wouldn’t do much of anything to reduce costs.

I was happy for the couple and all the rest of us late that night when the House of Representatives finally approved health care reform.

Clueless opponents didn’t know it, but the bill they wanted killed was the first step in reducing unsustainable cost increases that individuals, employers and every level of government would have had to face without reform.

 

Make Republicans Explain

Republican opposition to health care reform could only work for them politically if the Democrats failed to pass the bill.

Then the “Party of Hell No” could claim to be the heroes who prevented Democrats from putting grandmothers to death and bulldozing them into mass graves. They could paint themselves as American patriots who stopped the Socialist takeover of the United States.

But, with the passage of health care reform, we have not become a totalitarian state. We are still a democracy led by a successful president voted into office by an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Republicans, aided by the media, were very successful in scaring people with lies about death panels and other imaginary catastrophes that were never going to happen. But if Republicans really do intend to make repeal of health care reform a big issue in the midterm elections, they will have to make a case for repealing lots of actual results benefiting almost every American.

Let Republicans explain why they are against people with pre-existing conditions having access to health insurance, why they think insurance companies should be allowed to drop people when they get sick, and why insurance companies should set arbitrary limits on how much they pay out so serious illnesses drive even insured families into bankruptcy.

Republicans can’t even use their disingenuous argument that we can’t afford health care reform since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the law will reduce the federal deficit $138 billion the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion the next 10 years.

And surely even many conservatives who generally oppose government programs that help others have been turned off by the ugly racism, spitting and brick throwing by some of the more extreme elements egged on by Republican leadership.

Coming back home, Wisconsin Republicans seem to be putting themselves in the same “Hate Health Care” box as Republicans have nationally.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, has predicted that repeal of health care reform and preventing Wisconsin residents from receiving its benefits “will be the defining issue in the general election” for governor.

Former Congressman Mark Neumann, Walker’s Republican opponent, apparently thinks if you keep stating the exact opposite of the truth—claming that health care reform will result in an “explosive growth in the national debt”—you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who is supposed to know the law, went through the phony political charade of asking the Democratic governor and Democratic Legislature to authorize an expensive state lawsuit to try to overthrow federal law passed by a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress.

The longer Republicans fight health care reform, the bigger losers they will be.

No human being is illegal, but failing to provide affordable health coverage to human beings in America is about to be.