Although Democrats may have lost the battle in the 2016 elections, the recent Republican failure to repeal Obamacare goes to show that they have won the war over the hearts and minds of the American public.
Certainly, the Republican leadership was close to passing a “skinny repeal,” and the final push was defeated by the vote of a certain senator who has become a poster boy for term-limits.
Nonetheless, at no point did Republicans even attempt to realize the conservative liberation of healthcare that had been their rallying cry under the Obama years.
Despite the media’s near constant “crying wolf” act, Republicans are in a better positioned electorally than ever before.
Democrats, clumped in urban centers, appear to have grown “out of touch” with ‘middle America,’ and even with President Trump’s abysmal approval ratings, are unlikely to retake the House or Senate anytime soon (which, in all fairness, is also a function of successful gerrymandering by Republican dominated state legislatures).
However, the Republican party of today, eager to retain power and spearheaded by a populist demagogue, has squandered every chance to effectuate the conservative principles it espoused mere months ago.
Unlike the American people, the Republicans have lacked the chutzpah to “vote with their feet” (literally and figuratively).
The failed “skinny” (more like anorexic) repeal, while undoing the individual and employer mandates, would have maintained the obligation to cover pre-existing conditions, incentivizing consumers to wait till they become sick to buy insurance.
It likewise took no steps towards deregulating medicine or dismantling the monopolistic health networks created under Obama. It did not even touch Medicaid.
An exercise in putting on airs, the Republican bill was more reminiscent of Steve Bannon’s purported R-rated hobby than of quality legislation. Yet, this “show over substance” Hail Mary was still deemed too conservative to pass.
President Trump, along with some hard-line conservatives, then attempted to appear unfazed, going so far as to claim that the Affordable Care Act’s impending collapse will be to the Republicans’ advantage.
Such a naïve rationalization, however, defies the golden rule of democracy: taking away benefits is far harder than doling them out.
The recent history of US healthcare calls to mind Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote: “the trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Nowhere is that more evident than in Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to 133% of the poverty line, mandated insurance coverage for those with costly and largely preventable pre-existing conditions, and trillion dollar subsidies, which have left medical costs ballooning and government coffers empty.
Cajoled by Comrade Barry’s promised “healthcare for everyone,” the American public has thrown future generations under the bus and health economics out the window.
But we were not fooled overnight.
Over decades, Democrats carefully crafted their public message, utilizing social media, pointing to the “socialist” Nordic utopias as a case-study, and most of all, establishing a moral high ground.
Anyone who rejected the notion of government’s role in healthcare was “greedy” and “hated the poor.” Of course, they neglected to mention that “socialist” Nordic countries have incredibly low corporate taxes, and can afford their welfare state only by heavily restricting immigration (sound familiar?).
The Democrats’ smoke and mirrors worked like a charm.
In the United States, a nation founded on the principles of personal freedom, 33% of voters today favor a total government takeover of healthcare (up from 21% in 2014).
If insurance markets are allowed to implode under their own weight, desperate masses who once flocked to Trump’s hyperbolic promises will jettison all concern for constitutionality, American values, or even basic economics in favor of a government care-package. It won’t matter anymore that America’s healthcare system has been, for centuries, the gold standard in medical innovations, research, accountability, patient-physician interaction, or end-of-life options. As long as progressives paint themselves as the saviors of the masses, “abstract” issues such as statistics, economics, and the national debt will pale in comparison.
When Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he not only forever cemented his legacy, but also the American public’s perception, and future, of health care.
Republicans are left without any options (as are many Americans looking for health insurance these days). Sure, they can work with Democrats to keep the insurance market afloat through more subsidies, but such an approach would only further reinforce the government’s unconstitutional role in medical care.
Either way, the nation has begun a long and painful march towards the unsustainable and unaccountable European model of healthcare.
In the age of social media, constitutional principles are outweighed by emotional appeals, and no amount of Super PAC money, gerrymandering, or procedural Senate loopholes can overcome public expectations.
When Ceausescu, the dictator of Romania (who by no means should be considered a role model for personal liberty), became the first modern day leader to fully repay his county’s debts through austerity measures, the masses quite literally murdered him.
Republicans, the one-time defenders of the free market, fear repeating his mistakes and today are keen to debate tiny policy snags rather than a fundamental overhaul of healthcare, or a rollback of unsustainable benefits.
While our politicians keep up their constituent-pleasing spectacle, the American people are doomed to suffer death-spiraling premiums, worsening medical care, and an ultimate government takeover of healthcare. The pre-existing condition under Obama has devolved into a full-blown malady, and as is usually the case under government-run healthcare, the only possible cure has been denied.
Adam A. Barsouk is a student of Medicine and Health Policy at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Adam values the freedom that America has provided his family, and as a cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and an aspiring physician, hopes to share this commitment by liberating the infirm of the chains of disease and suffering.
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