There was no doubt that in the wake of Barack Obama’s sweeping victory in 2008 change would be coming to America. The best those of us on the losing end of that election could do was to hope that whatever change was coming would be done with the best interest of the nation in mind, the economy would adapt and the long term damage would be minimal.
Eight years and nine trillion dollars of debt later America will finally start picking through the rubble and begin to repair the damage that turned out to be anything but minimal. Between Dodd/Frank financial regulations crushing community banks, a foreign policy long on words but short on substance, and an economy that after two full terms in office Obama never got to even a paltry three percent GDP growth, the incoming Trump administration definitely has its work cut out for it.
And at the top of that “to do” list is stopping in its tracks the so inaptly named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. I make no argument that continuing with the status quo in 2008 was an acceptable solution, but instead of targeted, effective reforms, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid instead just blew the dust off their wish lists, put em all together in a pile on the floor, said the magic words and SHAZAAM, Healthcare Reform!
Their joy was overwhelming. The public didn’t even noticed that to subvert the Constitutional requirement that all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, Harry Reid just stripped the language of an already passed House bill on veteran’s housing assistance and replaced it with the magic words of Obamacare. (When your moral compass is “the end justifies the means” a little bypassing of the Constitution is nothing.)
The dark magic that conjured up the spirit of Obamacare was so strong that Obama breaking his “I will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days” campaign promise wasn’t even noticed.
And that same magic protected Nancy Pelosi when she quipped “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it” and it cloaked the President as well when he promised “If you like your plan you can keep your plan”.
The thing had taken on a life of its own and there would be no stopping it. Until that is, it had to actually do, what the democrats had promised it would do.
Today, Obamacare plan deductibles and premiums for hundreds of thousands of Americans are two, sometimes even three times larger and higher than plans they liked but were unceremoniously kicked off anyway. Physicians across the country are being forced to become data box checkers rather than dedicated doctors. Private health savings accounts have been limited in both scope and dollars and customers are forced to pay for policy coverage they don’t need nor want.
Obamacare took a system in dire need of reform and instead turned one sixth of the U.S. economy into a morass of red tape and government mandates that except for a lucky few, hurts more than it helps and costs billions more than it should.
It was a noble goal that delivered abject failure.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s little slogan “Make America Sick Again” and Nancy Pelosi’s “you want grandma living in the guest room” scare tactics aside, the only path forward at this point is full repeal and a fresh start over.
Which was why it was so disappointing to hear Senator Schumer smugly declare Wednesday: “But we’re not going to sit down in a room with them once they repeal and say let’s figure out a joint plan.”
Looks like that dark magic that birthed Obamacare is going to hover over its death as well. A majority of Americans never wanted Obamacare in the beginning and they certainly don’t want it now. Democrats shun the coming reform process at their own political peril. Because the spell that held it all together ends January 20th, 2017 at 12:01 pm EST and the future could care less about Obama’s “legacy”.
Editor’s Note: A version of this column first appeared in the January 8, 2016 print edition of the Joplin Globe.