Don't listen to Romney; Obamacare is a win for conservatives
As the presidential election comes into the home stretch, we’ve entered debate season.
For those of you who missed it, the general scorecard goes like this: Gov. Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate, and Vice President Joe Biden took the VP debate. Meanwhile, the pundits continue to spin and speculate on Tuesday’s showdown, and it looks like Obama wins it by a nose.
But what’s interesting is what’s been a recurring talking point of both Republican nominees: the “government takeover” term used in the debates to describe health care reform measures known as Obamacare. Romney said it. Paul Ryan said it. That Obamacare represented a government takeover of the health care system in America, though, was never true.
Either they were both ignorant, or they were both lying.
I’m not being sensational when I say this, either. That claim was 2010’s Lie of the Year as selected by PolitiFact — a non-partisan fact checking organization affiliated with the Tampa Bay Times.
But whatever. Politicians lie all the time. What I worry is that these lies are actually clouding one of the recent successes of the American political machine.
Obama’s reputation as a strong social progressive is well-earned. He actually wanted a formal government takeover of the health care system at the beginning of his push for health care reform. But that’s not what he got.
In its current form, Obamacare is a stipulation that health insurance companies may no longer refuse to cover new patients for pre-existing conditions. In order to prevent an exploitation of the system — folks waiting to buy health insurance until they become sick — the bill also includes an individual mandate requiring every American to buy health insurance or pay the government a fee.
It is not a European-style, government-run health care infrastructure, where all hospitals are state-owned and all doctors and nurses are government employees. Obama never actually wanted this. This would take the free market out of the system altogether, making it difficult to encourage outstanding care and allow patients to seek out the coverage they want for themselves.
It is also not a single-payer health insurance system. This part Obama did want. In a single-payer system, the insurance companies are supplanted by a government agency that takes in billings and pays out costs for all health care procedures across the board. Obama did push for this to level the playing field and make the quality and diversity of health care options available to everyone equally — no longer would the wealthy have exclusive access to luxury coverage while the marginalized and uninsured would struggle to pay for basic health care.
This, though, did not come to pass. Neither did the public option, which would position a government agency as a direct competitor to private insurance companies. The free-market-run health care providers, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies balked at government intervention in health insurance and spoke against it — loudly. As a result, Obamacare was altered. The final iteration of the bill has no public option, and no single-payer term to be found.
The system worked.
Instead, the current Obamacare — often called Romneycare by those on the left due to its extreme resemblance to the law Romney passed in Mass. while serving as governor — only makes allowances for the nation’s poorest to receive access to health insurance at affordable rates. Hospitals are still privately-owned and operated. Doctors are still paid by a company, not a government entity. Individuals maintain control over their health care providers. The health insurance companies are alive and kicking — especially now that there’s a law in place making every American one of their customers.
Every time Romney and Ryan repeat the term “government takeover” with reference to Obamacare, they’re proliferating an untruth. It should give us pause to consider that these politicians running for office seem to have no problem taking liberties with facts to get elected.
Obamacare is a healthy compromise far less progressive than initial proposals. It is not a government takeover of health care. It is not socialized medicine. It’s a tweak in the system that helps the least fortunate among us to get the care that they need. And that’s a good thing. Both parties got what they wanted — a free-market health care system, but one that’s more accessible for the nation’s poorest and sickly.
It’s time for Romney, Ryan and conservatives everywhere to see this as the victory that it is — and move on.