Largely obscured by the Syrian crisis in recent weeks have been the moves – from joke to extortion to possible treason – by Republicans in their rabid war against Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is law of the land. Health exchange enrollment begins Oct 1. But you would not know it by the actions of numerous Republican governors, attorneys-general, and the leadership in Congress. Outright vetoes of participation in expanded Medicaid, repeated, futile, votes in Congress to repeal the act, obstruction by Republican led states and agencies in establishing exchanges, a deluge of harassing legal actions to derail enrollment are part of a well-funded coordinated legal and political campaign underway.
Given the untimely death, disease and poverty – especially for minorities, women and children – that can be averted by expanded Medicaid, why shouldn’t indictments for harm done be brought against these officials who willfully deny working poor and middle class residents the needed health care coverage and services? Can this campaign succeed in killing the signal achievement of the Obama administration?
As the map below shows, only 28 states are moving toward expanded Medicaid. Just over half! Expanded Medicaid provides everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty level virtually full coverage, comparable to Medicare. It is fully, or 95 percent, federally funded in poorer states for years.
Huge current uncompensated care charges to states by public emergency rooms for uninsured, or poorly insured, patients can be dramatically reduced. Public health, and thus productivity, is vastly increased, as is public wealth. Health care debts constantly expose working families to bankruptcy and loss of credit.
Compensation to doctors and providers is increased to level of Medicare allowances. The infusion of federal dollars via expanded health care will have a significant jobs and stimulus effect on harder hit communities, and for thousands, perhaps millions, of small businesses who are unable to retain employees and partners – meaning unable to hold teams together – through life and family changes, because they could not afford health coverage premiums.
Traditional Medicaid is plagued by stringent, unjust and cumbersome qualification and asset tests, wide variations in coverage from state to state, insufficient federal funding, large un-served populations without adequate insurance, and very poor compensation to participating doctors. All of these are eliminated or alleviated under Obamacare.
So what explains the states that have declined to participate, as well as political-terrorist obstructionism of some officials in states that are indeed participating? Pretty much, pure ideology and pure class warfare. Newly elected West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey has publicly taken perverse delight in the prospect of the Affordable Care Act becoming “a train wreck,” knowing it would bring 250,000 West Virginia workers, the uninsured and under-insured working poor of the state, both health care and a net gain in state income. He tied up release of federal funds to train needed assistants in the enrollment process by harassing the providers with background questions about their employees, which forced one to withdraw.
Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Whip Eric Cantor now plan to refuse to raise the debt ceiling again, or approve a budget, unless Obamacare is defunded. They have already voted 40 times to repeal it in a boundless waste of their employer’s money and time. Since their employer is the people of the United States, why should they not all be fired?
Most of the public rationales Republicans give for their opposition to Obamacare are simply lies: that it will cost more; that there will be government “death panels”; that the poor will abuse health care (Limbaugh).
But then there are the truths they tell – like the Kochs and the Romneys (and he’s a moderate!!) – that reveal their true motives and allegiances: that there should be “no more free stuff,” “less entitlements” – that is, no more rights, like the Bill of Rights, or a right to social security, or to health care, or to education, or to affordable housing, or to food, or to equality of opportunity and justice, that are not wealth’s privilege to buy. Their vision of rebuilding the economy is: give the billionaires anything they want, employ the rest of us to build them toys and give good service while scrambling for crumbs from their tables to survive. Ask for more? “The hungry dog hunts harder,” they reply.
The section of elites that are bankrolling the Republican leadership appear to think that the capitalist system is in total crisis; that Bolsheviks are at the gates in this never-ending depression/recession; that private capital and all its prerogatives are about to be swallowed by Tyrannosaurus Government if the people get health care.
The president and more liberal, enlightened elites note the facts that social security and the massive public spending reflected in World War II and following, including the GI Bill, Marshall Plan, homeowner assistance, recognition of collective bargaining, etc, provided a new labor force, and new infrastructures both technical and institutional. These “more socialist” changes, including an expansion of public goods, better income distribution and regulation gave rise to an explosion of innovation and a rebirth of capitalist relations in the post war boom.
For working people, the fight for Obamacare is a life and death struggle, and every worker needs to enroll who is not already covered by an adequate private plan. Actually, every worker needs to take the time to enroll ANOTHER worker. This is the first opportunity we have had in at least 20 years (since the height of the tech boom) to RAISE OUR REAL INCOME, as a people, and as a social class.
There are many contradictions and loopholes in Obamacare, but NONE that cannot be corrected by fully enrolling, and organizing members to push the program in the direction it ultimately must go: toward a Medicare for All system. The most important principle -universal coverage – has been passed into law. From there we continue the fight to go from coverage to actual health care.
But gang of nullifiers of no greater character than the “fire eater” scoundrels like John C. Calhoun who drove the slaveholders into armed rebellion, and treason, are trying to strangle the program in its cradle. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – protect the baby!
Photo: A supporter of health care reform speaks out at a 2009 town hall meeting in Hartford, Conn. (Wikimedia/CC)