Romneycare: A road not taken
It’s quite clear to me that President Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan has been and will continue to be a disaster for the country. Like all other progressives, I’m planning to do everything within my power to assure the election of a president who will repeal and replace Romneycare this coming November. For me, it’s the number one issue.
Anyone reading this, of course, knows the chain of events that led to Romneycare becoming law but it’s worth a quick review anyway: Unusually nice weather on the day of the 2004 elections helped Democratic turnout in the key swing state of Ohio made John Kerry the second consecutive person to ascend to the White House without winning the popular vote. President Kerry’s honeymoon in office, as everyone knows, proved unusually short. If the quagmire in Iraq and collapse of the housing market had not done enough damage, the sheer timidity of Kerry’s much heralded push on health care reform — dead on arrival in the Republican Congress — likely did him in well before his decision to bail out Lehman Brothers on the eve of the 2008 elections.
President Kerry’s loss in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, of course, sealed his fate and led to former Sen. Rick Santorum’s accession to a job as the Secretary of Health and Human Services following Mitt Romney’s victory. (That, as everyone remembers, was coupled with massive Republican pickups in the House and Senate.)
While I had some hopes for President Romney’s healthcare reform proposals, the plan that eventually emerged in the spring of 2009 failed to satisfy a single progressive goal for health reform. The plan known by the ridiculous title of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” leaves almost all of the private profit-driven healthcare system in place while offering assistance to the poor only in the demeaning form of Medicaid. It contains no entitlement right to healthcare and even leaves out the middle-ground “Public Option” that Senator Hilary Clinton proposed as a compromise. Even worse, from a personal freedom standpoint it offers a plainly unconstitutional mandate that individuals do business with private health insurance corporations owned and controlled by Wall Street interests. All this, of course, is a carbon-copy of the plan Mitt Romney shoved down Massachusetts’ throat. And, to pay for some trivial new help for the poor, far too many cuts are made to that pillar of the Great Society, Medicare. So far, almost none of it has worked: a few people in their early 20s have enrolled on their parents’ healthcare plans and Medicare cost growth has slowed a tad but, overall, the number of un-inusired Americans has remained near record highs.
But none of this maters to the GOP and its backers. Despite fierce opposition, it was inevitable that the plan would become law after Sen. Ben Nelson switched parties to give the Republicans a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. The final pieces fell into place when Secretary Santorum made personal calls to a few of Congress’ strongest anti-choice advocates to convince them that a convoluted scheme that forced individuals to write separate checks for abortion coverage satisfied his desire that the bill not provide a single penny to help women who chose to terminate their pregnancies.
Of course, the bill wasn’t popular at all. A continued lackluster economy — President Romney’s tax-cutting “stimulus” only marginally reduced unemployment below the 10 percent rate he inherited from President Kerry — gave us progressives an upper-hand again in the 2010 elections. (The Occupy Wall Street Movement that spread like wildfire soon after President Romney’s inauguration helped Progressives somewhat, although it was undermined by Occupy-aligned MSNBC hosts’ peddling of conspiracy-theories relating to President Romney’s Mormon background.)
Still, the heavy Democratic turnout in the 2010 elections and the formation of a new “Occupy Wall Street Caucus” in Congress assured a healthy Democratic House majority that passed a two-page bill to repeal President Romney’s healthcare law just days after it convened for the first time. The repeal bill, of course, died in the Senate where Republicans still held a very narrow majority. And there was other action too: Many states with Democratic legislatures have refused to implement the “connectors” that are supposed to provide new markets for health insurance and a coalition of progressive Attorneys General has filed a Supreme Court brief to overturn Romneycare. Additional push-back has come from Koch-brothers funded “Tea Party” protests that show support for further cuts to Medicare along the lines of those included in Romneycare.
Of course, many of the most interesting developments have taken place on the Senate floor where Illinois junior senator-turned-presidential candidate Barack Obama has given some of the best speeches against Romneycare. Come November 2012, Barack Obama is surely the man who can successfully repeal and replace Romneycare.