Nowhere is the GOP bubble more obvious than in the current debate over whether or not to repeal Obamacare. According the Republicans, the ACA broke a system where, as one person told me on twitter, “88% liked their healthcare before Obamacare.” Now, according to twitter folks, premiums are increasing at “an average of 40% per year” and “the system is crashing.”
That’s the story Republicans are telling themselves. It’s being reinforced by Fox News and conservative web sites, but it’s not true. The ACA certainly has some problems but it’s not killing the economy, leaving more people without insurance or threatening to “crash” our health care system.
Back in 2005 and 2006, health care was the country’s number one domestic concern. Premiums were doubling every five years. More than 15% of the population lacked health insurance. Emergency rooms had become extremely expensive primary care centers for millions of uninsured Americans. The number of families going bankrupt because of medical bills was increasing. The amount the country spent on health care was rising rapidly. Americans were demanding changes.
Since the Affordable Care Act, premiums are still increasing, but at a considerably slower pace. Fewer Americans lack health insurance than at any time in recent history. The number of families declaring bankruptcy due to medical bills is down considerably. Growth in the cost of health care has slowed dramatically. None of that, though, gets through the GOP talking points.
Republicans spent seven years telling Americans that Obamacare would ruin the country despite little evidence to back up their claims. Their partisans bought the arguments hook, line and sinker and are demanding the evil law be repealed. Now, Republicans are caught between their rhetoric and reality.
They now control the entire federal government and half of the states. Beyond the GOP base, people see that the ACA has made a difference in health care and they’re no longer scared of it. They want it improved, but they don’t want to go through another seven years of uncertainty, especially when most experts predict GOP alternatives will lower the number of people with insurance and increase premiums.
So, Republicans are stuck with a bunch of bad political choices. They can repeal the bill and really cause heartache to millions of people. They can institute their so-called free-market replace options, which would still leave millions of people without coverage. They can do nothing. Or they can work with Democrats to try to make the law better by reducing costs, insuring more people and figuring out how to pay for the fixes.
Republicans in Congress are stuck between middle America, which just wants better health care, and their base which wants to stick it to Democrats and unravel Obama’s legacy. They can’t satisfy both. They can do what’s best for the most people or they can feed the red meat to their base and see what happens.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >