How should a government pass a historic, multi-trillion dollar program that will change a country’s health care system and affect every single adult citizen?
The exact process is up for debate, but for insight on what not to do, just look at how the “Affordable” Care Act (Obamacare) was passed in 2010.
The law was made behind closed doors, criticism was met with accusations of not caring about poor people, and the bill – which no one who voted for it read – passed Congress quicker than almost anything can get passed these days. The healthcare debate was so tense that then-Speaker of the House John Boehner cried and screamed during the final floor debate.
But that was not the end of this rollercoaster.
As if the passage didn’t provide enough examples of what not to do, the implementation had its own set of bumps in the road. First, there was the expensive and extremely flawed website designed by a Canadian firm that left almost everyone who tried to signup unable to do so. Then there was the Supreme Court ruling that declared the law constitutional, just as long as the fee for not having health insurance was a “tax” and not a “penalty.” And who could forget the numerous delays on the personal and business mandates that made the Obama administration appear to be backing off the controversial law? To top it all off, there were reports about the ACA costing more than the government had originally planned.
During this tumultuous time, the Republican Party’s primary platform became a sturdy promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” And while the details of what that replacement would be was (and still is) quite unclear, perhaps conservatives had a point about the ACA.
This week, according to a government report, Obamacare premiums are set to “skyrocket” an average of 25%. While this number is already quite high, it is also important to note that in some states, the increase may be more than 100%!
This is not good news for Obamacare, especially because this revelation came from the government’s own assessment and not some independent group. Further, Donald Trump has been able to use this news as a reason to vote for him, saying he could fix the healthcare system by repealing the law. Across the aisle, Hillary Clinton wants to reform and expand the program, because she believes that throwing money at a sweltering fire – the Democrat’s version of using duct tape to fix just about anything – can save it.
Obamacare has been rotting in the trash for six years now. The question is, do we take it out or cover it up with more air freshener. This question, now more than ever, has allowed for an opportunity for finger-pointing of the highest proportions. And while this policy debate is an important one, I believe it is also important to look at this as an opportunity for learning. As I asked in the beginning, how should a government pass a program that will affect the entire country?
My first instinct, as a rabble rousing libertarian, is to say never. But I also understand that there does come a time when the government needs to step in and reform a system as important as healthcare.
Obamacare should have been developed openly, slowly, and with robust discussion.
Great leaders understand that their vision and their plan are different. I fully believe that President Obama wanted to make healthcare easier – not harder or more expensive – for people to get. However, this noble vision of Why was polluted by a stubbornness about the How. He had control of Congress, he had the political capital, and he was determined to get this dam thing done.
“The next President should also view [Obamacare] as a learning opportunity – a case study in what not to do.”
The only challenge is, when you don’t bring in the other side in a considerable way, you alienate that side (as one would expect). And when you alienate a group, they are less likely to work with you in the future (as one would expect). And when a President’s party loses control of Congress to the very group he kept away from the table and even out of the room entirely, the likelihood of getting things done is virtually gone (as one would expect). This is, in part, how our current deeply partisan divide was created.
In addition to viewing Obamacare as the ungodly disaster it is, the next President should also view it as a learning opportunity – a case study in what not to do. It’s time to admit the faults of large government programs. It’s time to bring people of all backgrounds to the table of governance. And it’s time to make sacrifices in order to begin healing a political divide that – without question – has crippled our nation. If our next leader does these things, then perhaps some of our other big issues like immigration, gun control, or foreign policy can be handled in a truly bi-partisan way.
If it doesn’t work out, don’t blame me: I didn’t vote for either of them.