I’m shedding a tear here. It’s kind of like the day when you finally throw out your favorite old pair of socks because you can put them on from either end, a melancholy sense of loss. Apparently, the GOP is finally putting the repeal of Obamacare out to pasture. Never again will we hear “Repeal Obamacare root and branch” screamed at a rally, to raucous applause.
The first step to solving a problem is to admit that there is a problem, and apparently the GOP is finally willing to take that first, tremulous baby step. According to reporting in The Hill, Republicans are starting to try to find a palatable replacement for the failed strategy of repealing the ACA, while promising only to replace it with a nebulous, kind-of-concept to be determined package. GOP pollster Whit Ayres apparently looked at some actual polling and noticed a wee problem;
“Republicans need a positive vision about what should happen to lower costs, expand access and protect pre-existing conditions,” he added. “You’ve got to be able to answer the question, ‘So what do you think we should do about health care?’ ”
OK, right out of the box, and already, “Houston, we have a problem.” Ayres states that the Republicans need a ?positive vision” on healthcare. Since January 20, 2009, if there is one thing that the GOP has lacked, it is a positive vision on anything. Mitch McConnell darkly promised to use any means necessary, fair or foul, to make Barack Obama a one term President. Their own President, Donald J Trump, provided a stunningly “positive vision” when he spoke of “this American carnage” in his inauguration speech. The GOP has struggled to find anything positive to say about the menu at the congressional cafeteria, even though they controlled the menu for eight years.
The old saying is that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and on healthcare, the GOP message was even more bleak than “American carnage.” Caribou Barbie from Wasilla led the rallying cry that “death panels” were coming to pull the plug on Granny! Both the federal budget, as well as the insurance companies, would collapse under the onerous weight of Obamacare, and everybody would die! Maybe Ayres is right, it’s time for a new set of drapes in the den. It couldn’t hurt, right?
But there are several problems for this “positive vision” healthcare 2.0 that the GOP is trying to push. The first problem is that the GOP have been obstructionists for so long, that they’ve long ago forgotten how to have constructive ideas. Say what you will about the weaknesses of Obamacare, at least the Democrats did some honest research on what the issues and problems were, and tried to come up with solutions for them. The ACA was weak specifically because the Republicans vociferously resisted any attempts to make it strong and effective. The GOP didn’t research jack about healthcare, simply because they were devoted to the status quo. Another problem is that the Republicans are so covered in health insurance and pharmaceutical pocket lint that they can’t see clearly enough to drive their cars anymore. Any effective healthcare legislation would hurt insurance companies and big pharma, and that is a “pill” that the GOP is going to find very bitter and hard to swallow.
But it seems like the biggest problem with this GOP epiphany on the issue of healthcare for the masses is an issue of sincerity. To be blunt about it, the GOP seems to be trying to stop smoking by hiding the pack in the dresser drawer, and then leaving a note in their pocket, reminding them where they are. Jim McLaughlin, another GOP pollster, accidentally gave up the game in this comment to The Hill;
“We should be the guys and gals that are putting up things that make health care more affordable and more accessible,” said Jim McLaughlin, another Republican pollster. “No question Democrats had an advantage over us on health care, which they never should have had because they’re the ones that gave us the unpopular ObamaCare.”
Notice the unintentionally hilarious dichotomy there? It’s the GOP that should be coming up with popular and innovative ideas on how to make healthcare a dream come true, because the Democrats sucked at it. But one would think that a guy who spends his entire professional life studying poll numbers would have seen the ones that show the ACA now firmly in the black when it comes to popularity among Americans. Sorry Jim, I hate to tell you this, but there’s no such thing as “just a little bit pregnant.” You gotta go bold, or go home.
This is a grand canyon sized hole that the Democrats should be driving a Mack truck through. The first thing that Nancy Pelosi brings up once the government shutdown is resolved is a stand alone bill that codifies all of the pre existing condition protections of the ACA into law. Hell, maybe even tosss in a few more universally popular conditions to protect. What can the GOP do? Their own candidates ran on how strongly they would protect the American people from the dreaded affliction of pre existing conditions. Next, you pass a stand alone bill that allows Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower cost meds for their recipients. You can add legislative muscle to that bill by threatening to put up another bill allowing the importation of lower cost Canadian meds if big pharma squeals too loud.Start hammering in the first support piles for the bridge to Medicare for all.
This is a rare moment in politics that the Democrats can’t afford to let slip by. After the debacle of 2018, even the GOP realizes that their status quo position on healthcare is untenable. Bt since they spent the last nine years refusing to even acknowledge that there was a problem, they have no viable solutions. The Republicans won the healthcare battle of 2009 by framing the ACA negatively before the ‘democrats could accentuate the positives. This time around, it’s the Democrats that can put the shoe on the other foot, and the results of the 2018 midterms already show that the public likes their message. Let’s not mess this up.
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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.