Why The D.C. Republicans Have No Credibility On Health Care
Every Democrat running for president and Congress believes in expanding access to decent, affordable health care to all Americans. In reaction, the GOP is hurling their tired old allegation that this is “socialism.” This attack from the GOP dates back to the 1930s when the D.C. Republicans opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal and Social Security.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman accurately spelled out the radical right’s actual definition of socialism: “(A)nything that improves life for people who aren’t already at the top.” But what about the credibility of the DC Republicans making these allegations? What is their record on health care? Let’s take a little trip down memory lane.
When John F. Kennedy introduced Medicare in the early 1960s, the radical right hired then former actor Ronald Reagan to lead the campaign against the bill. Reagan labeled Medicare “socialism” and predicted it would lead to the end of freedom in America. Reagan even went so far as to label Medicare Marxism: ‘’Shouldn’t someone tag Mr. Kennedy’s bold new imaginative program with it’s proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago.’’
Despite Reagan’s efforts, Medicare was passed with bi-partisan support. (Back in 1965, the GOP had a large moderate wing that is now extinct.) Nevertheless, the now dominant right wing of the GOP has never accepted Medicare as a legitimate function of the federal government. The D.C. Republicans — with the support of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation — have repeatedly tried to end Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program. This would have the effect of turning Medicare over to the private health insurance industry and would cost the average senior citizen an additional $6,000.00 per year in out of pocket medical expenses.
The next major effort to expand health care and provide universal coverage (as well) was in 1993–94. Initially, Bob Dole entertained the idea of a compromise with an Obama Care like plan. However, Dole quickly switched to a strategy of all out obstruction due to pressure from the right wing and his presidential ambitions. Clinton Care failed to pass due to a combination of GOP obstruction and lies, GOP trafficking in phony Clinton “scandals” and divisions within the Democratic caucus. The failure of Clinton Care was responsible — in part — for the Democrats’ loss of Congress in the 1994 election cycle.
The lone effort by George W. Bush to expand health care was the Medicare Part D program that provided prescription drug coverage to senior citizens who already enjoyed the benefits of single payer health care. The bill was largely drafted by the pharmaceutical industry and was jammed through the House in the middle of a night on a partisan basis. While Bush was president, eight million Americans lost insurance coverage.
It then fell upon President Obama to clean up Bush’s mess. Obama managed to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 despite unprecedented GOP obstruction and a blizzard of lies. (Has anybody been hauled in front of a death panel?) The ACA insured 20 million additional people and reduced the uninsured rate from 18% to an all time low of 9%.
This success was accomplished in the face of a GOP campaign to sabotage the ACA. The Republicans in Congress ended the risk corridors program and defunded the insurance co-ops. Republican governors and legislators in numerous states — including Nebraska — refused to create a state exchange and pass the Medicaid expansion. This sabotage has caused a 20% increase in premiums in Nebraska.
At the same time, the GOP voted to repeal and replace the ACA without a replacement plan over 60 times during the Obama Administration. During this same time period, the GOP made numerous promises to come up with a replacement plan. The Republicans essentially promised a cheaper and more generous version of the ACA.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to insure “everybody” and provide “great care at a tiny fraction of the cost.” Trump even said it would be: “So easy.” (Once he was president, a visibly bewildered Trump said: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”)
Finally, after waiting eight long years for a replacement plan, the GOP came up with Trump Care in 2017. This plan would have taken away insurance from 23 million people to fund a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthy. Trump Care would have also gutted pre-existing condition protections. This plan broke every health care promise made by the GOP in the previous eight years. It was so bad, that every Republican House member voted to exempt themselves from it!
Since Trump has been president , 7 million Americans have lost health insurance. The uninsured rate has gone up to approximately 14% -a four year high. It has taken Trump only two years to “accomplish” what it took Bush to “accomplish” in eight years.
This my friends is the GOP record on health care. This is why the D.C. Republicans have absolutely no credibility on health care. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Zah.
The Republicans simply don’t believe in universal coverage and consumer protections. Conservatives don’t believe it is a legitimate function of government to spend money on health care for the sick, the poor and the elderly. They just don’t believe in it.
Going forward in 2020, we Democrats need to emphasize what we all agree on — universal health coverage for the American people. We need to focus on what unites us. It doesn’t help for us to engage in a circular firing squad and do the Republicans’ work for them. At the same time, the Democrats need to focus on how we differ from the GOP on health care. As you can see, the differences are profound.
We Democrats made this huge contrast on health care our central message in mid-term elections. We won big in 2018. Now let’s do it again in 2020!