Do you long for the days of "pre-existing conditions," when health insurers could deny you or your loved ones coverage on the flimsiest of technicalities?
How about those popular "lifetime limits" to your coverage, before your expensive health insurance became completely useless?
Or do you dream about reinstating the infamous "doughnut hole," when millions of working Americans lost coverage before they were eligible for Medicare?
Yeah, me neither.
Nor, frankly, do I miss the days of rampant deregulation on Wall Street, when reckless self-dealing brought our—and the world—economy to its knees. So much so that President George W. Bush had to create the ever-unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program on October 3, 2008, to address the subprime mortgage crisis that unfolded on his watch.
Yet Republicans refused en masse to vote for America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act, even when it gave tax breaks to 95% of working families (over 100 million American taxpayers). Instead, they are lining up behind the very policies that, we know from painful recent experience, don't have any chance of succeeding.
In the case of health care, which Republicans candidly hoped would be Obama's "Waterloo" as they openly rooted for him to fail, deregulation plus soaring charges from drug companies—largely for direct-to-consumer marketing and kickbacks to 17,000 doctors—contributed to crippling rate hikes as high as 39 percent, in the case of WellPoint in California.
Yet according to a recent New York Times editorial, "Republican candidates and deep-pocketed special interests are spreading so many distortions and outright lies about health care reform that it is little wonder if voters are anxious and confused."
Here's a quick snapshot of the nonsense and mendacity now being peddled before the midterms next week:
"John Raese, the Republican candidate for the Senate in West Virginia, is claiming that the law will require patients to go through a bureaucrat or panel to reach a doctor. That is flat out untrue. You will still choose your own doctor or insurance plan without interference. Nor, despite other claims, will the law provide subsidized insurance to illegal immigrants. They are precluded from using even their own money to buy policies on new exchanges."
According to Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican running for a House seat in upstate New York, "The Obama administration [is] compiling a federal health record on all citizens, including each individual's body mass index."
This, too, is a ridiculous lie—as brazenly absurd as Sarah Palin's tweet about health care reform leading to "death panels." Yet who ended up with greater coverage? Who soaked up most of the oxygen over health care reform, despite their near-total ignorance of the actual facts?
Republican politicians, the Times editors point out, "never tire of denouncing health care reform as a 'government takeover'—or socialism. What is true is that the law relies heavily on private insurers and employers to provide coverage. It also strengthens regulation of those insurers and provides government subsidies to help low- and middle-income people buy private insurance on the exchanges."
"Republican candidates [also] routinely and cynically charge that the reform law will ‘cut' $500 billion from Medicare—leaving the clear implication that benefits will be reduced. In reality," the Times editorial continues, "the law will slow the rate of increase in payments to health care providers over the next decade, and benefits for most beneficiaries will be as good or better than they are now."
"What [Republicans] are not
saying," the Times
observes, is that "health care reform has already brought substantial benefits,
mostly starting in late September. Insurers are now barred from dropping coverage
after a beneficiary becomes sick. Dependents can stay on their parents' policies until age 26
. Insurers must cover preventive services and annual checkups
without cost-sharing. Lifetime limits on how much insurance plans will pay for treatment are gone.
Obama's health care reform, the editorial concludes, "has also energized federal officials and many state regulators to challenge and force down big increases sought by insurers. The Justice Department just filed suit against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan for allegedly using its market power to drive up costs for its competitors and its own subscribers."
Those of us who strongly supported the existence of a public option alongside private health care insurers did so, it's worth restating, on the capitalist premise that competition would not only help improve care, but also assist in driving down prices. The only way to prevent insurers from forming a price-controlled monopoly, we reasoned, was to use the federal government and a far-larger pool of the insured to make higher-priced insurance less attractive, forcing those insurance companies to maximize coverage at lower cost.
Such a stance was, we need to underscore, the exact opposite of the Bush administration's use of the government to make the negotiation of prescription drug prices for seniors illegal. (Talk about a government takeover of prices, to subsidize the pharmaceutical industry!)
Is that what American voters want to return to? I sure hope not.
Karl Rove is already rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of even-greater paralysis from Congress after November 2. Because he's counting on our forgetting that not a single member of the GOP voted for the 2009 Recovery Act—even as individual Republicans later clamored hypocritically for the stimulus funds it made available, to offset falling state revenues. Rove and his colleagues are also hoping we'll overlook the months that the GOP spent stalling over bipartisan reforms and initiatives aimed at getting our country back on its feet. The GOP has earned the moniker "The Party of No" for a clear and simple reason.
According to a recent Gallup poll, "71 percent of all Americans blame Republican policies for the bad economy," yet Americans—understandably frustrated by the country's slow recovery—risk punishing the only party willing and committed to putting the country back together again.
As for President Obama, despite my frustration over several of his lost opportunities, including the months he spent hoping that the Party of No would commit to bipartisan agreements, I want to echo the sentiments of one reader ("Steve B" in San Francisco) who responded as follows to Frank Rich's column about Obama in yesterday's New York Times:
"Give the guy a chance as opposed to throwing in the towel on his presidency and his platform. The Republicans offer nothing, and how short a memory do we have that two years ago we were teetering on the brink of a financial catastrophe authored by that same party of "no." When you're sick, you don't jump out of bed and start running wind sprints. This economy was at death's door not too long ago. Do you honestly believe that coming back from the precipice would be easy? Have some patience and some faith, friends—or we'll all end up flat on our backs again with the party of "no" ideas torturing us (and others) with guest appearances from the likes of Rand, Sarah, and Christine. Don't sit home and lament. Go out and vote."