At a recent meeting in the Kansas City area, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asked those in attendance, "What is it about Obamacare that you don't like?" It's a relevant question; Republicans are making hay out the nation's half-vs.-half split over the law.
Of course, everyone in the meeting couldn't come up with an answer because they were all labor leaders who liked the plan. McCaskill's point was when she asked other people who are against the plan that same question she got the same response.
Most people that hate "Obamacare," officially called "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," don't hate the plan as much as they hate the president, McCaskill said. President Obama, she added, "could come up with a cure for cancer and still be hated by many Americans and all of the Tea Party members," McCaskill told the group.
"But let's focus on why the Health Care Act is a positive law for the United States:
- "THE COST: The new law will actually reduce the federal deficits. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the bipartisan Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation predict the law will reduce health care spending by $143 billion over the next 10 years. Small businesses can now claim tax credits for 35 percent of their health care costs. By 2014, small businesses will be able to join state-created health insurance marketplaces (the exchanges) that will allow pooling of health care dollars, further reducing costs.
- "MEDICARE: The current benefits of Medicare are still guaranteed and will include free annual checkups and other tests and vaccines have been added, In addition the Part D drug payment "doughnut hole" will be closed by 2020. Coverage limits are gone and no longer will you be rejected due to pre-existing medical conditions.
- "CHILDREN: This is a great benefit for many of the children out there who have had difficulty getting jobs and having to live at home. Under this act, insurers must cover children until their 26th birthday under their parents' policies. Previously insurers dropped children after their 19th birthday," McCaskill said.
- "THE MANDATE: This is one of the plan's biggest advantages and interestingly enough is the most contentious of the provisions. The mandate insists that by 2014 everyone must have adequate insurance coverage or pay a fine. Interestingly, it is the Republicans that object to this the most. We already have such mandates in place in other areas. Everyone must have auto insurance and everyone must pay income taxes.
"The idea is to get rid of the freeloaders, who can afford to purchase health care but instead use the system for free. If I remember correctly, this is what Republicans have been whining about for years when it comes to welfare," McCaskill commented.
"And guess what? The mandate was actually first proposed by the Republicans as far back as Richard Nixon. He got it from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Stuart Butler of Heritage used this example for changing the conservative mandate to an individual mandate: 'If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find he spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services -- even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab.'
"A mandate on households certainly would force those with adequate means to obtain insurance protection, which would end the problem of middle-class 'free riders' on society's sense of obligation.
"You understand now that (because) it is a Democratic idea, it is a bad idea," McCaskill concluded. "People with a lot of money -- or I should say wealth, (since) there is a difference -- do not want to see Obamacare succeed.
"Yet in 2009, almost three quarters of Americans saw health care reform as an urgent priority. All we hear from Republicans is how bad this is. No one has come up with a better alternative. Let us move on and make this plan better. But let us not step back and start over again. We don't have the time," the senator concluded.
This story was originally written for the Kansas City Labor Beacon.