Constitution, Obamacare strive to promote general well-being

Anyone who has ever constructed a model ship knows what a tedious and complex task it is. Imagine that you open the kit and discover that the directions are in Japanese. Does this stop you from going forward with the project? No. You contact the manufacturer and request another set of directions in English … Now transfer this metaphor to current efforts to implement accessible and affordable health care for 30 million uninsured Americans. While the Affordable Healthcare website was constructed in haste, not properly vetted by hired contractors, and includes some serious glitches (similar to those that were found when the 2003 Medicare Part-D was finally rolled out in 2006) the ACA itself remains a viable means to accomplish the above-mentioned and long-awaited goal.

The 1787 Constitution wasn’t ratified by all the states until 1791. The provisions of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation were not implemented until the end of the Civil War in 1865. It took 98 years (and counting) to implement the provisions of the 15th Amendment (“The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged”). Social Security took years to implement. Stuff happens! Stuff can be fixed!

Continuing the model-ship metaphor – suppose that you are constructing the model ship outdoors in the face of a ferocious windstorm. After a while, the wind abates, but then you are suddenly assaulted by a horde of rabid vampire bats …

Long before it was enacted into law and upheld by the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) faced a “windstorm” of criticism from right-wing pundits and extremist activists who proved the validity of Mark Twain’s observation that “A lie can travel halfway ’round the world, while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” By putting out a raft of misleading information, scare tactics, and outright lies. Now that healthcare reform is on the verge of success, the reactionaries are getting desperate and are increasing their distortions. The latest of these (delivered by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and FOX’s Sean Hannity) is that all Americans will have to “give up their insurance policies” and adopt the more expensive “Obamacare” plan. Not so fast! From 3 to 5 percent of Americans have “junk” policies that cost less, but don’t cover items like pediatric care, maternity care, ambulatory services, hospital stays, prescriptions, and basic preventative care. Those persons with “on-the-cheap” policies will probably have to obtain new ones at slightly higher rates (i.e. from $59 to about $65 monthly) but they will be better provided for and will obtain more for their money by having insurance coverage that meets national standards. The ACA also mandates that 80 percent of premiums must be spent on actual health care, instead of advertising and CEO bonuses. It also eliminates waste by providers who “milk” Medicare and Medicaid via overpriced equipment and unnecessary or repetitive procedures. This reduces the overall burden of health care upon the national economy and reduces the national deficit.

The “vampire bats” metaphor pertains to the right-wing zealots who don’t care about reform, but want only to remove the life’s blood” from Affordable Health Care and gut the law in its entirety. While healthcare exchanges are succeeding in states like Kentucky, Massachusetts (where “Romneycare” has been successful since the late 1990s), California, and 17 other states, extremist governors and “tea party” legislators in 30 states are actively trying to block the establishment of health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Obstructionists and wing-nut ideologues (like Marietta’s own Andy “Pander” Thompson) are serving their financial backers in the insurance industry by saying that “Obamacare” will “cost taxpayers more and hurt small businesses.” Malarkey! By opting for Medicaid expansion – as the more pragmatic Governor Kasich has done – Ohio will receive $2.56 million in subsidies that will reduce the overall cost of insurance, attract outside industries, and help the state’s financial well-being in the long run. Small businesses with less than fifty employees are exempt from ACA provisions, and can qualify for tax breaks if they provide insurance to their uninsured workers. Those among the “working poor” whose minimum-wage earnings are not enough to pay for health insurance will be allowed to receive quality coverage via subsidies and expanded Medicaid … Obstructionists in Congress (i.e. Ted Cruz) don’t want to fix the problem. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, they are the problem!

The metaphorical model-ship mentioned earlier might be the U.S.S. “Constitution” (“Old Ironsides”) named for the nation’s founding document that includes the words “to promote the general welfare” among its desired objectives.

Fred O’Neill lives in Marietta.