Now that the shutdown debacle is over with, the two governing parties can get back to the task of ‘governing.’ Although a deal has been reached that is going to keep the government funded via a continuing resolution, there is still a good deal of grumbling amongst the right wing over the Affordable Care Act.
The new talking point, neatly encapsulated by my co-columnist Brittany Jordan, is that even though the ACA is the law, it still needs to be repealed because a “majority of Americans disapprove of the law.”
Well, if you look at the polling, that’s correct. According to a poll from USA Today, roughly 43 percent of the country supports the ACA, 53 percent do not support it, and 5 percent don’t have an opinion either way.
But that isn’t the whole story. It’s not that half of the country hates the law, it’s that a lot of those people didn’t think that it went far enough.
The ACA was a compromise bill, and it sacrificed a lot in the name of ‘bipartisanship.’ A lot of people on the left didn’t like that. What we wanted was something more in-line with what Medicare is, a single payer system. Funding for the program comes from tax revenue and when you need to go to the doctor you don’t have to worry about whether or not your insurer will cover the payment or not. Everyone pays into it, everyone gets benefits out of it. And if you wanted to stay private, you could; but if your private insurance kicked you off, you would still be able to use the public option.
That’s what the left wanted out of the ACA, something much more in line with the British National Health Service or Canada’s Health Act. What we got was a clumsy omnibus bill that provided some consumer protections, a few guarantees and an almost universally reviled individual mandate that outright plagiarized Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care reform (everyone seems to forget that little nugget of information for some reason).
What’s the old saying? “A good compromise leaves everyone angry?”
But the recent debate over the ACA has been way too focused on whether or not the law should be repealed. Congressional Republicans have been trying their hardest to repeal this so-called monstrosity of a bill, launching over 42 separate attempts to defund the program or repeal it outright. They even went so far as to shut down the government to try and get their way.
Now, I’m not going to echo others in the political left who just want the Republicans to shut up and get over it. Although, I have no sympathy for their complaints because a lot of their problems with the law could have been addressed when it was still a bill, which the Republicans steadfastly refused to do during the initial debate by voting no on every single provision related to the ACA, including their own ideas which the President noted when he spoke to a Republican retreat in 2010.
Since nothing short of the infinite power of Christ will stop Republicans from doing arguing against the ACA, there should be a shift in the discussion. Framing the debate as “Repeal this or else” isn’t a discussion, it’s a threat and ultimately serves no-one. Instead of trying to repeal the entire law, why don’t we start talking about how we can make it better.
Repealing the entire package removes a lot of the things that people (on both sides of the aisle) actually like about it. Things like disallowing providers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to stay on their parents plans until they are 26 and preventing insurers from capping your coverage are all popular ideas (not to mention stuff that I myself am currently benefiting from).
If employers are skirting the employer mandate by hiring more part-time employees, then let’s find a way to fix that. If people feel like the law is discriminatory, then let’s find a way to make it work for them. If people feel like they won’t be able to keep the plans they already have, let’s talk about that and find a work-around.
That’s a discussion worth having, if people are willing to actually have a discussion about it. Repealing the law is currently impossible. Changing the bill in a way that moves this country towards a much better healthcare system is something that can happen, if we’re willing to let it happen.
Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science double major, who has seen a universal health-care system in action and thinks it works really well. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.