By review: If the Affordable Care Act were blown up as congressional Republicans desire, 12 million Americans who now have health insurance would have none.
That being the case, one of the most telling comments of the last six rip-roarious years came the other day from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
In McConnell’s state of Kentucky, the ACA has been a major success under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. McConnell recently was asked: If ACA went away as he wished, what would become of the 521,000 Kentucky residents ACA now insures – either via Medicaid expansion or having enrolled on the state exchange?
McConnell, who is in a tighter-than-anticipated re-election fight, said he saw no reason why those people would not keep their insurance.
Pause for spit take.
Dab face and table with napkin.
Cough. Swallow. Clear throat.
Um, really, Senator?
Time magazine’s Stephen Brill composed himself after gagging on McConnell’s beyond-the-pale claim. Then he asked the senator’s office to explain.
How to continue to cover half a million Kentucky residents without the ACA? Would the senator choose a Scandinavian-style single-payer plan, perhaps?
Brill got no answer.
Nothing could be more emblematic of what the party of McConnell, John Boehner and Ted Cruz now embodies.
Whether it’s health care, or immigration, or outsourcing, or the nation’s infrastructure, or the scandalously growing gap between rich and poor, the Republican Party is mostly busy being indisposed.
Like auctioneers who make run-on sentences their living, Republicans in Congress couldn’t stop assailing the president about the recent influx of Central American children, their presence tied to a bipartisan law signed by, ahem, George W. Bush.
President Obama suggested a means of addressing the problem, with faster deportation. Then when — wonders of wonders – an actual compromise bill emerged to do that, the tea party wing of the GOP refused to consent.
This brings to mind a lazily parsed news report that called this “Obama’s immigration problem.” How so? How is it that only one man can be responsible for the situation? How can Congress evade any accountability or ownership?
Actually, we know the answer to that question. Most of the U.S. House is inhabited by individuals in seats drawn to order by partisans who have assured such political homogeneity that these so-called representatives need never explain themselves to anyone other than the “base.”
When one’s base is the tea party, that means being accountable to constituents of mostly one pastel, and mostly one creed. Their needs are mostly met. (No health insurance? Get some.) And a lot of them still can’t accept the fact that this country twice elected a president so unlike them.
And so back to the signature achievement of that president — if you don’t count shepherding the nation out of the Great Recession, winding down two wars, leading the way to equal rights for gays and lesbians, and ordering an unprecedented move toward alternative fuels and energy conservation.
Disregard all of the above, and the Affordable Care Act remains. Brill observes the irony of how the people of red-state Kentucky roundly praise Kynect, the state health exchange by which so many have enrolled for coverage, while dissing “Obamacare.” Of course, the two are one. It’s a little like loving milk and detesting dairy cows.
It’s easy to understand why the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to be as popular as Social Security or Medicare. As Brill writes, unlike those two entitlement programs, which are for everyone who should live so long, the ACA if fully implemented means coverage for roughly 25 percent of us.
Many Americans whose needs are comfortably met will never warm to something government does to help others. However, on national health coverage, this country is being served by the fact that at least one American, this president, committed himself to doing something about it, and had the votes to make it happen.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.