Columns

Johnson ’14: Obamacare is coming to get you … insured

By
Opinions Editor
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Get ready, Rhode Island. Open enrollment through the state’s health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI, begins Oct. 1, and boy are things looking scary! Starting next month, Rhode Islanders will be able to shop for a variety of private insurance plans through the exchange. Plans offered on the exchange will be required to meet certain criteria, such as providing free preventive care, not discriminating based on gender and not spending excessive money on non-medical services. Consumers will be able to compare plans side-by-side and determine what level of coverage best meets their needs.

If you’ve listened to Republicans lately, you know Oct. 1 is a dark day indeed. We are ushering in a terrible new era in America, in which insurers can no longer deny care to kids with cancer and the health insurance market is actually somewhat transparent. Oh, how we will long for the days when three Americans died every hour due to lack of health care coverage!

Starting in October, Rhode Islanders whose income is up to four times the federal poverty level will be able to receive tax credits to help pay for their health insurance. What could be worse than receiving life-saving aid?

The truth is that Oct. 1 is not such a scary date for Rhode Islanders. In fact, for many it will be the start of a new future of health insurance that is both comprehensive and affordable. There certainly will be glitches with the new system, as there are with any new technology. And with every glitch, expect a chorus of fear-mongering and “I told you so” from the extreme right.

But the truth is that Republicans don’t oppose Obamacare because they’re worried it will not expand coverage or attempt to lower the nation’s health cost curve. They oppose it because it is the signature achievement of a Democratic president, achieved in the face of their continued howls of opposition, and because they know that the law will work.

Republicans used to talk about “repealing and replacing” Obamacare. But now, they’ve admitted that they have no alternative to Obamacare and speak only of repealing the law. Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said that his fellow Republicans have “zero answers” for what they will replace Obamacare with.

In response, Republican policy wonk and college dropout Karl Rove penned an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal claiming that Republicans have plenty of ideas to replace Obamacare. He pointed to several proposals by congressional Republicans, some of which were good ideas. The problem with Rove’s argument is that none of the Republican proposals do what the Affordable Care Act does. For example, they have no credible solution to the greatest moral shortcoming of our health care system — the 50 million Americans who currently lack health care coverage. Most of the Republican proposals, like allowing Medicaid recipients to opt into private coverage of equal value to their Medicaid plan, simply nibble around the edges of the problems facing the American system.

So perhaps the correct way to characterize it is that Republicans have lots of solutions, just none that fix the major problems of the American health care system. They will continue to berate the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover of your health care, just as in the 1960s Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would lead to a socialist dictatorship.

Today, most of us know that Medicare did not lead to a socialist dictatorship and that it in fact has reduced poverty rates among the elderly and given peace of mind to generations of American seniors. Unsurprisingly, today’s Tea Party leaders are borrowing a page from their idol Ronald Reagan’s playbook.

Fortunately, Reagan lost his fight in the 1960s. Medicare was signed into law and today, all Americans over 65 have guaranteed health insurance. Today’s Republicans have already lost the fight against Obamacare. The law was signed over three years ago and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court and by a presidential election.

And next month, Rhode Islanders will begin to see the scary face of Obamacare for what it truly is— the most significant piece of social legislation since Medicare. Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 and his administration have done an excellent job of setting up the state’s insurance exchange and expect to be fully ready for open enrollment next month.

When Oct. 1 comes, President Obama will not be at your grandmother’s nursing home to kill your grandma, as some Republicans have suggested. There will be no Soviet-style uprisings, no government death squads determining your worthiness to receive care.

Instead, there will be new hope for thousands of Rhode Islanders who never thought they would be able to afford health insurance.

 

Garret Johnson ’14 is fleeing to Canada to avoid President Obama’s socialized medicine.