On Monday the man we elected (and by “we,” you know who I mean) to solve America’s problems and make the country great again emerged from a meeting with the nation’s governors glassy-eyed, as if he had just been told he was going to have to take an IQ test or get hooked up to a lie detector.
When asked about the prospects of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, Trump said, “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
Bruh, that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to tell the Republican Party for almost eight years.
Ever since President Barack Obama finessed what would eventually be called “Obamacare” through both houses of Congress, Republicans have derided it and told their constituents that once they regained power, they would immediately repeal and replace it. Apparently “immediately” has a different definition in the conservative dictionary, because they have yet to offer an alternative to the health care law that insured 20 million people and reduced the number of uninsured to the lowest level in recent history.
Yes, health care is a complex, difficult issue to address, which is why many economists, pundits and political experts don’t believe that Republicans will ever fulfill their promise to repeal and replace the ACA—despite the rhetoric they’ve been feeding their base for years. Even John Boehner—the former speaker of the House and trailblazer in the field of orange-skinned politicians—told a group attending a health care conference last week: “They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.”
There are seven reasons why you shouldn’t be wringing your hands over the prospect of Obamacare disappearing.*
Republicans love to call the ACA a “job killer” because of the extra burden it places on employers to cover their employees, but they don’t cite the ways that health care affects the economy. They hate the tax on medical devices in the fine print of Obamacare, but won’t mention that medical-device sales soared 43 percent because the market had more insured customers.
None of the conservatives will speechify about the 3 million jobs that will be cut if Obamacare is repealed. Remember the housing crisis that caused the last recession? Remember the credit crisis that nearly killed the auto industry? What do you think will happen if medical bills start popping up on credit reports, reducing the number of people who qualify for mortgages and car loans?
Republicans have always hated government programs. They hated Social Security and have been trying to defund it since it passed in 1935. Ninety-five percent of Republicans in Congress have voted at one time or another to defund Medicare. But you can’t mess with Medicare or Social Security without getting voted out of office. The diehard Republican base are like toddlers with lollipops: Even if they didn’t ask for it, once you let them taste it, you can’t take it from them.
Everybody hates Obamacare. That’s because a lot of them are in love with their alternative insurance plan—the Affordable Care Act. Many of the ACA’s haters don’t know that the two are one and the same. Even those who do know might not know that they are consumers of Obamacare because each state has a different name for its health care exchange. Many Americans with private insurance think they’ll have nothing to do with Obamacare, ignoring the fact that their ability to insure their children up through age 25, and the fact that they can’t be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, exist only because of the federal mandates of the ACA.
It was working-class whites who supported Trump and helped Republicans maintain their majority in the House and Senate. Working-class whites are also the largest beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. More whites gained coverage under Obamacare than blacks and Latinos combined. Poor, older, uneducated whites make up the base of Trump’s supporters, who, coincidentally, are the people the ACA protects. The Republican Party doesn’t want to cede its base to the younger, more diverse Democratic base.
The ACA provides for preventive medicine that catches sicknesses before it’s too late. It increased the number of people who discovered their cancer in the early stages. Mental-health officials say that repealing Obamacare could cause a national mental-health crisis. Because of the access to health care for expectant mothers, some say a repeal could increase the infant mortality rate.
Do you see how contentious the latest congressional town hall meetings have been? If they replace Obamacare with a lesser version, we might have all-out battles royal in small towns all over the country. Couple that with the nutjob Second Amendment freaks who show up to political rallies with sidearms and shotguns, and you have a melee in the making.
Anyone can repeal, but it takes a lot of compromise, patience and intelligence to come up with a viable national health care plan—traits that Republicans have rarely shown. Writing a filibuster-proof bill that they know will eventually go down as “Trumpcare” or “Republicancare” is a monumental and unenviable task. As the Tangerine Tweet Machine said, “No one knew health care could be so complicated.”
But someone did know.
There was a guy who did it with a smaller congressional majority than Trump enjoys. He did it with logic, planning and compassion for the then-50 million people who had to wait hours in emergency rooms for basic medical care. He solved the problem for the millions of children who couldn’t afford diagnoses for developmental and mental-health problems. He fixed the broken system that rejected men who needed drug counseling or women who were just left to hope that the lump in their breast wasn’t malignant. It was so “unbelievably complex” that the people who thought it couldn’t be done named it “Obamacare,” after him.
Now that you know how unbelievably complicated, meaningful and fraught with peril messing with people’s health care can be—do us a favor:
Leave it alone.
*All speculation in this article is based on logic and facts, which is why Republicans might still repeal Obamacare.