Turning legislation into law is no easy feat. A bill has to go through committee, be approved by both houses of Congress and then has to be signed by the president before it finally becomes a law. When it comes to creating a bill, it is important the American people are informed about what’s happening. Revealing the details only helps with the process — if a lack of governmental transparency results in the public’s inability to familiarize themselves with the legislation, there’s a good chance the bill will not get passed.
This was the case with the Senate’s proposed health care legislation. Like most conservatives, I want the Affordable Care Act to be repealed and replaced. Insurers are continuing to withdraw from the Obamacare exchanges and in 2018, there will be a projected 49 counties without any insurer on the exchanges. In that same analysis, 1,300 counties will have just one Obamacare insurer next year. Nationwide, that’s more than 40 percent of the counties.
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Wisconsin has already suffered from the departures of major insurers. UnitedHealthcare is no longer an option on the exchanges after announcing last year that it was leaving. In June, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield decided to leave Wisconsin’s Obamacare exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act is proving to be insurmountably unaffordable. Back in 2009, the cost of the health care overhaul was projected to be $848 billion over ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Proponents of the bill claimed it wouldn’t have any major fiscal damage. The problem with their argument was that Obamacare didn’t even go into effect until 2014.
New revisions from last year, however, show the actual ten-year cost is going to be $1.805 trillion. Defenders of Obamacare will try to say this can be made up through the costly penalty fees for those who remain uninsured and excise taxes on high-premium insurance plans. But, even when adding these fees up, the net cost is still an overwhelming $1.344 trillion. The Obamacare experiment has failed.
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Republicans have promised for years that Obamacare would be eliminated when they took power. The unpopularity of the law and its shortcomings launched the GOP to midterm victories in 2010 and 2014 as well as at the presidential level in 2016. Despite the transition to a GOP-controlled national government, a comprehensive replacement should not be rushed or worked on recklessly.
Enter U.S Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. Following his re-election, Johnson is back at work making sure the voices of his constituents are heard, joining several Republican senators in successfully delaying the legislation. Johnson understands the urge among many who voted for him to replace Obamacare quickly, but he’s also aware that public servants have an obligation to give the public time to digest what the changes are going to be.
Johnson took every opportunity to be available to his constituents by holding telephone town halls, interviews and meetings across Wisconsin. Connecting with voters who are concerned about health care reform helped him and his fellow lawmakers evaluate its impact and discern what needed to be adjusted.
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This was a smart move, since a poll by CBS indicates that 76 percent of people do not know what the Republican proposal will do and 73 percent believe the GOP needs to craft the legislation publicly, rather than privately. Now that changes to the bill have been made, Johnson is back to supporting it.
Yes, implementing a replacement for Obamacare is taking longer, but conservatives should not be worried at the moment. The Affordable Care Act itself wasn’t signed into law until March 23, 2010. That’s more than a year after Barack Obama became president.
For now, Republican senators can use the time they have to defend the bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, against criticism made by Democrats. The bill contains many improvements from Obamacare, such as including tax credits for people who desire health insurance, expanding the use of health savings accounts, repealing some ACA taxes, providing funding to combat the opioid crisis and limiting the spending growth of entitlement programs.
The responses of several Obamacare supporters have been overly dramatic. U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has said “thousands will die” if the Better Care Reconciliation Act is passed. U.S Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Ma., declared Republicans will use “blood money” from American lives to pay for tax cuts. Such comments should be taken with a grain of salt and are only being used to stir up emotions.
While proponents of Obamacare grandstand about the benefits of its coverage, a December 2016 report by the Center for Disease Control found that life expectancy in the United States decreased for the first time since 1993. One of the reasons for the decline in life expectancy has been the economic consequences of Obamacare.
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A study by the American Action Forum concluded the law resulted in nearly 300,000 fewer jobs, 10,130 fewer businesses and $19 billion in lost wages. Simultaneously, premiums continue to rise by leaps and bounds according to numerous studies that have calculated Obamacare’s impact.
Republicans are concerned about people who want health coverage, but the truth is the government cannot afford another large program that will bankrupt the country. A broke nation can’t help anyone, and the Democrats have already had their chance with Obamacare. Their signature legislation of this decade has blown up in their faces and a new direction is needed — and that’s what the GOP has to offer.
John M. Graber ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.