News & Opinion » Urban Journal

Dems must get fired up over health-care law

by

comment

"That political leaders defend a system that rations health care based on income, job status, and health condition is unconscionable."

So Republicans have decided to make repealing the Affordable Care Act the focus of their campaign for the White House and Congress. The Supreme Court says the law is constitutional, but House Speaker John Boehner says it has to be "ripped out by its roots."

This ought to be an easy fight for Democrats to win.

To throw out the law completely, Republicans have to gain enough Senate seats to fend off a Democratic filibuster: not likely. But they could cut off funding with a simple majority in the House and the Senate, virtually destroying the law. And yes, if President Obama is re-elected, he could veto the defunding. But imagine the hostility that would generate between Obama and Republicans, particularly if Republicans control both houses of Congress.

All of which makes it crucial for Obama to be re-elected and for Democrats to at least keep control of the Senate.

Republicans, backed by some loopy right-wing groups, are already rolling out their fear campaign, warning that liberty itself is at stake. That's a smokescreen designed to obscure the Republicans' goal of protecting pet special interests. The Democrats – those in safe seats in Congress, those in risky seats, and the president himself – should grab the Republicans' threat and aim it squarely back at them: Elect Mitt Romney, and insurance companies can refuse to cover you if you've had cancer. Give Republicans control of the House and the Senate, and you'll lose your health insurance if you lose your job.

For all its faults, there's a lot to be proud of in the act. It's time for the Democrats to stop cowering and start shouting down the law's critics.

The Affordable Care Act does not establish a government-run health-care system. Doctors will not work for the government under this law, any more than they do under Medicare. We'll still be able to get health insurance from private insurance companies.

And by the way: Hospitals are delighted with the court's ruling. Under the current health-care system, they treat people with no health insurance but absorb the cost themselves. (The rest of us bear part of the cost, too, in higher hospital bills.)

The need for this law – and for further reforms, reducing costs, increasing accessibility – is clear. The law's critics ignore the pain of Americans thrown into bankruptcy by medical bills, Americans who can't get treatment for serious medical conditions, who have had yearly and lifetime limits placed on the amount of treatment they can get for serious illness.

That political leaders in the United States defend a system that rations health care based on income, job status, and health condition is unconscionable. And that message shouldn't be hard to sell.

There are extremists who will never support the law, who either don't care that millions of people don't have access to decent health care or believe that such people don't exist. But nothing indicates that those extremists are the majority. Many of the law's critics wanted something stronger. Others, according to polls, aren't clear about what the law provides.

The law's critics on the left are correct; the law is far from perfect. It won't cover everyone. It doesn't rein in costs effectively. And because it relies on the private insurance industry, there is waste that shouldn't exist.

But the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. And it is much, much better than what we have had, and much better than what we will get if Republicans destroy it.

Curiously, Republicans seem to have dropped their plan to focus the election campaign on jobs and the economy, a topic much more complicated, and harder for Democrats to discuss, than the Affordable Care Act. But so be it. Rather than feeling threatened by the Republicans' move, Democrats ought to welcome it.

It's time for them to get fired up and ready to go.

Add a comment