For years, Obamacare was the law that conservatives loved to hate. From “death panels” to the individual mandate, Republicans used the Affordable Care Act as their default punching bag. Then, in an upset to end all upsets, Republican nominee Donald Trump actually won the White House and put the GOP in a position to repeal Obamacare. The Republican dream of repealing Barack Obama’s namesake health care reform was finally nigh!
Or so it would seem.
Despite controlling the Oval Office and both houses of Congress, the GOP quickly found itself in a quagmire over repealing the ACA. In town hall meetings across the country, conservative members of Congress were besieged by angry voters who decried the drive to end Obamacare. Day by day, the Republican drive to repeal the ACA lost steam. Within the GOP, individual politicians began voicing doubts that there would be an appeal. With former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and successor Paul Ryan (R-WI) now doubting that there will be a true repeal of Obamacare, it looks like the hard-charging GOP is stuck in quicksand over health care reform.
Already bogged down, the Republican healthcare reformers may now be facing a death knell: President Donald Trump has irked just about everyone by insisting “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” For the nation’s chief executive to be so ignorant of the complexity of healthcare policy is alarming. For the GOP to go after the ACA with guns blazing, while being so ill-prepared to replace it with anything, is downright dangerous. Until now, however, Republicans’ recklessness and negligence in the arena of healthcare reform was somewhat hidden.
By insisting that neither he nor his administration were prepared for the fact that healthcare is not an “easy fix,” Donald Trump has insulted his own party. He has made every Republican detractor of Obamacare look like a dolt. And don’t expect liberals to pass up this chance to rub Donald’s nose in it: Bernie Sanders is already getting in his digs at the president.
Even voters who disliked Obamacare will likely be alarmed at the fact that the president himself, as well as every Republican in Congress, is befuddled at how to replace it. Until now, many moderate and conservative voters probably assumed that, beneath all the liberal ranting and howling, the GOP leadership had a plan. “They’ve got something,” every card-carrying Republican declared. “Libs may not like it, but there’s a plan.”
Guess what? Trump just admitted that there is no plan, or at least not a workable one. There is a vacuum in terms of healthcare policy… one that can be filled by the first wonks to come up with a plan. While the GOP seems to have been caught flat-footed, there is one wing of America’s political spectrum that has a plan: Sanders-style progressives.
“I’ve got a plan,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) can say. “It’s the plan currently being used by every other industrialized nation, including our closest allies.” His plan? If you weren’t living under a rock during 2016, you probably remember Sanders’ passionate arguments for single-payer healthcare. From Canada to Britain to Germany, our closest allies provide comprehensive basic healthcare for all citizens… free of charge.
As easy as sending a kid to public K-12 school here in the U.S., citizens in western Europe can go to the doctor and receive treatment for basic ailments and illnesses. The system is paid for through taxes, and nobody is turned away. Here in the United States, an unnecessarily complex healthcare system confuses both consumers and providers by making people wade through reams of paperwork about deductibles, copays, coinsurance, out-of-pocket maximums, in-network versus out-of-networks, and exhausting tables of which services, treatments, and medications are covered or not covered. Privatized healthcare is insanely complicated because complexity advantages the profit-seeking health insurance corporations.
Healthcare is complicated because providers make tremendous profits by playing “gotcha!” If you are unconscious and an ambulance takes you to an out-of-network hospital – gotcha! You will pay many thousands of dollars extra. If your doctor prescribes you a medication that is not covered by your insurance – gotcha! You can either pay through the nose or forego treatment. Oh, and your insurance company can decide whether or not to pay after your doctor visit. If they decide not to pay, you the consumer are on the hook for everything that was not covered.
Medical care should not be treated like the daily purchase of a consumer product. Healthcare, like education, is a process, not a cash transaction. There is considerable time involved, and adjustments must often be made. Not all variables are identical. For Republicans in Washington to be ignorant of these facts is truly terrifying.
We need to stop trying to rig national healthcare policy so that providers and insurers can “win” the game and rake in profits. We need to acknowledge that healthcare should be considered an investment in labor productivity. Just like with education, we need to ensure that the basics are provided to all citizens. The Republican Party had years to prepare a replacement plan for Obamacare, and it is now clear that they have failed miserably.
Yes, Donald, healthcare is complicated, and it is too complicated for you and your cronies to manage. Let’s let Bernie Sanders have a crack at it.