How Will They Answer the Real Question?

Published: July 2, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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Health Battle Enters Round 2 – That was the weekend headline in the Wall Street Journal (June 30-July1).

I’ve written about some of issues surrounding the health care law earlier this year: (March 5April 20). However, no sooner had the Supreme Court ruled that The Affordable Care Act was constitutional than the lines were drawn on opinion pages as well as Congress as to what happens next: implementation or repeal.

On one front, “Employers, insurers, hospitals, drug makers and others,” the Journal writes, “are angling for an advantage as the government writes the regulations and sets the policies that will bring the law to life.”

“Hospital owners want the government to reduce the $155 billion in health-care payment cuts they agreed to during negotiations over the law. Makers of medical devices hope to roll back a 2.3% tax on their sales contained in the measure. Insurance companies want more leeway to charge older people higher rates than younger ones. Drug makers are aiming at a provision that could squeeze how much Medicare pays for medicine.”

On the second front we have conservative Rush Limbaughtelling 15-20 million listeners that “Obamacare is nothing more than the largest tax increase in the history of the world!”

While you may rightly believe that reasonable people would ignore the demagogic ravings of a radio host whose rated “Pants on Fire” false, it’s difficult to ignore that in the same story Politifact points out that “Rep. Connie Mack, a Republican from Florida running for the U.S. Senate, called it ‘the largest tax on the American people in history’ in a press release. [Or] Florida GOP congressional candidate state Rep. Gary Aubuchon said on Twitter that the ‘ruling confirms Obamacare is the largest tax increase in U.S. history.’ [Or] U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-Pa.: ‘This is the largest tax increase on the poor and the middle class in the history of this country’; and Alabama Republican Party chair Bill Armistead [saying] that ‘The United States Supreme Court has essentially created the largest tax increase in American history.’ ”

However, this commentary is not about the endless parsing of language and meaning of penalty vs. tax or the impact on small business or corporations, etc. The reality is the preciseregulations and policies have yet to be written.

As I wrote in March (The New Face of Contraception) “[this is]not a perfect piece of legislation… but it is an important step with the goal of achieving a much need overhaul of the health care system in the U.S.; a system, one doctor told me, likens dealing with private insurers to ‘dealing with a legalized version of the mafia.’ ”

What troubles me most are two issues:

First is the fact that two U.S. representatives, one state representative as well as a party chair are irresponsibly spreading false information to voters. The second lies in the Journal’s headline – Health Battle. Once again, Congress is lining up for another partisan battle. It is precisely that battle mentality that Americans are sick and tired of.

On the Sunday CBS news show Face the Nation, House Speaker John Boehner told White House correspondent Nora O’Donnell, “[The Affordable Care Act] has to be ripped out by its roots… We will not flinch from our resolve to… make sure this law is repealed in its entirety.”

When O’Donnell asked, “Let’s talk about what’s specifically in this bill because there are a lot of protections for individuals,” Boehner responded: “Of course, there are,” but stuck to his guns about starting from scratch.

Both parties are keen on quoting poll numbers. According to a recent Gallup poll (June 29) Americans are equally split over the Supreme Court decision with 46 percent agreeing and 46 percent disagreeing. Contrary to what Speaker Boehner is saying, “Most [Americans] would keep the law in some form, but a majority would repeal parts.”

But here’s a poll that Congress should pay a lot closer attention to: According to another Gallup poll (June 11), Congress’s approval rating sits at just17 percent. For 2012, Congress has averaged 14 percent approval with an all-time low of 10 percent in February. “This,” Gallup writes, “along with the probability that Congress will not take any meaningful actions before the elections, likely ensures that congressional job approval will remain in the current low territory in the months ahead.”

Returning to Gallup’s analysis on The Affordable Care Act: “After the court announced its decision Thursday, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney immediately vowed he would begin repealing ‘Obamacare’ on day one of his presidency. His reaction and that of other Republicans suggests that the battle (there’s that word, again) over U.S. healthcare reform isn’t over, but is likely to move back to Capitol Hill — or the White House, should Romney be elected.”

The message from House Republicans seems clearer than ever: in spite of a Supreme Court ruling, a fragile, yet recovering economy, and more than 8 percent unemployment, House Republicans seem set on continuing down a path to do whatever it takes to win on this issue. Which means – we all lose.

But there is a solution.

Fareed Zakaria produced a superb documentary entitled, Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Saving Health Care. The CNN analyst takes us through the difficult questions facing America’s crisis in health care and its reform. He then takes a look around the world at how other countries have dealt with the same issues. While his answers may surprise many it is a documentary I encourage everyone who cares about their own health care to watch and judge for themselves – especially Congress.

Like the legendary sword of Damocles, the credibility of Congress hangs by the finest of hairs, but it’s a sword that hangs over all of us with potentially disastrous consequences on our economy and millions of people.

Will Congress choose the unity of good conscience by working together in thoughtful dialogue, writing and amending, where necessary, the policies of a health act that has the potential to help the many, or will they continue down a path of obstruction based on political ideology that continues to serve only one purpose: to divide the country further?

How they answer that question, will determine the course ofour lives; for members of Congress have free health care for life.


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