By Bill Kaplan
In the 1930s the hard-line right "took special pleasure in attacking Social Security, arguing that the hastily planned system infringed on the rights of states, that it was fiscally unsound, and that it would hurt the economy." Some said "that it was a gigantic fraud; that it was not insurance .... (from Invisible Hands The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal).
Today all of the same baseless charges are made against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The GOP has substituted a scorched earth policy for governing, with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan leading the charge. He says that the ACA is "a fundamentally broken law... (and) will collapse under its own weight." However, Ryan, not waiting for his prognosis, has:
* Filed an amicus brief in support of King v. Burwell before the Supreme Court which seeks to eviscerate the ACA by striking down federal subsidies (used to make health insurance affordable for policy holders) in states like Wisconsin that don't have a state exchange (Gov. Scott Walker refused to establish) and use the federal exchange (at issue is some sloppy legislative wording);
* Voted to sue President Obama and block another section of the ACA that pays insurance companies to keep out-of-pocket health insurance costs lower for the working poor;
* Voted nearly 60 times to weaken or repeal the ACA - and like Groundhog Day, another repeal vote is scheduled shortly;
* Voted several times to repeal Medicaid expansion and privatize Medicare, turning it into a parsimonious voucher program.
Ryan also keeps talking about a GOP alternative to the ACA, promising last week to draft "a thoughtful replacement strategy". However, the Wall Street Journal said: "Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate see the (Supreme) Court as their best hope for tearing apart a law they have long opposed. If the court strikes down the subsidies, Democrats are expected to clamor for lawmakers to pass a measure correcting the language in the law to revive them. Congressional Republicans say there is no possibility they would allow that."
But despite the GOP nonsense, the ACA is a huge success:
* 9.5 million have bought affordable quality health insurance on the federal and state exchanges, including over 177,000 Wisconsinites (most getting financial help to lower premiums);
* More than 10 million have gained health coverage through Medicaid expansion, including in 10 GOP-led states (welcome aboard, Indiana!), but sadly blocked by Gov. Walker;
* And, the economy is gaining steam with unemployment and the deficit down sharply, with sustained low health care inflation.
Why replace established success with empty false promises?
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.