Re the health care reform act, yet another case of conservatives acting like a two-headed monster | WisCommunity

Re the health care reform act, yet another case of conservatives acting like a two-headed monster

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today turned over a sizable chunk of its editorial page to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Robert E. Moffit, a senior fellow at the foundation in charge of health care studies, blasted President Obama for "orchestrating the federal government's 'takeover" of Americans' health care."

Aside from the curiosity that Moffit put "takeover" into quotes when it is his own assertion, the irony of his opinion column is hard to beat. After all, everyone obtaining health insurance through the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces will be signing up for a plan from a private, for-profit health insurer.

True, the act also accommodates more low-income citizens under Medicaid (except in states like Wisconsin, where Scott Walker rejected federal aid for expand Medicaid rolls), and Medicaid certainly is a government-subsidized insurance program relying on (ahem!) private doctors and hospitals; it, too  has existed for decades, so it can hardly be regarded as a some new power grab. Nor is it anything new that the government might impose reasonable limits and restrictions on the way providers structure their offerings, choose customers, or calculate rates. Conservatives are against regulation? Understood. But health care reform in no way changes the basic structure of health delivery in this country. Would that it did!

Anyway, this recurring harangue from the far right is old news. Very old news. When President Clinton sought health care reform twenty years ago, Republicans made the same, shrill, government-takeover claim. It's socialism! Just like Medicare! Of course neither were or are socialist. And Medicare has been working pretty damn well. Too well, if you're a Republican trying to demonize it.

So what's going on here? Well, the bottom line is that health care reform was successfully enacted by Democrats and a Democratic president, and that, apparently, is not to be permitted. Even when the reform plan pretty much follows a course designed in great measure by ... the Heritage Foundation.

From Wall Street Cheat Sheet:

    “An irony of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is that one of its key provisions, the individual insurance mandate, has conservative origins. In Congress, the requirement that individuals to purchase health insurance first emerged in Republican health care reform bills introduced in 1993 as alternatives to the Clinton plan. The mandate was also a prominent feature of the Massachusetts plan passed under Governor Mitt Romney in 2006. According to Romney, ‘we got the idea of an individual mandate from [Newt Gingrich], and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation.’”Tracing the Flow of Policy Ideas in Legislatures: A Text Reuse Approach

That irony, according to Cheat Sheet, led a trio of scholars at the University of Washington to study the legislative history of the health care reform law using a text-analysis system in order to understand its origins. According to their findings in the above-named paper:

Scholars rely almost exclusively on floor roll call voting patterns to assess partisan cooperation in Congress ... . By that standard, the Affordable Care was a highly partisan bill. Yet a different story emerges when the source of the reform’s policy is analyzed ... .

Excluding “markup” bills, or amendments and legislative rewrites, 11 percent and 28 percent of policy ideas came from Congressional and Senate Republicans, respectively. For example, a proposal for nursing home transparency made by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa in March 2009 eventually appeared in the the health care reform law’s language... .

Cheat Sheet concludes, "The Republican Party continues to be staunchly opposed [to] the law even though the individual mandate made its first legislative appearance as part of the party’s alternative to President Clinton’s health reform bill. It was included in the 1993 Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act that was sponsored by John Chafee, of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by 18 Republicans, including Bob Dole, who was the Senate Minority Leader at the time."

Thus, today's Republicans are outraged that. three years ago, Obama and Democrats enacted without GOP votes a health care reform law whose main feature -- the so-called "individual mandate" for health insurance -- was also the main feature in what the GOP itself proposed in 1993 as a workable alternative to Bill Clinton's health reform package. That GOP proposal in turn was based on ideas offered up by the Heritage Foundation that now founds them repugnant because ... government takeover! One is forced to surmise the Heritage Foundation and GOP at large would have been okay with the law, if only Republicans had enacted it, instead.

What's next? Will the Heritage Foundation declare outrageous the government mandate requiring that seat belts must be worn in motor vehicles? Even though that long-standing law has reduced traffic injuries and deaths, thereby saving the nation untold lives and millions of dollars in emergency health care costs? If so, the Heritage Foundation would likewise be reversing itself. From Cheat Sheet:

Stuart Butler, a health care expert for the Heritage Foundation, wrote in a 1989 brief titled Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans. “Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness.” Just as legally mandated insurance makes economic sense for automobiles, it makes sense for health care, as well.

ON EDIT:  I failed to note that the one big difference in the Heritage Foundation is the recent ascension of former Republican US Senator Jim DeMint to the organization's top post. DeMint is teahadist through and through, but that doesn't entirely explain Heritage's hypocritical policy stance on health care reform. It's probably instead more about Obama, again, than about actual policy. Or maybe when it was busy touting its early version of "Obamacare," the foundation was merely wearing a beard, not expecting that the "policy" was anything other than a way to derail all reform.


October 11, 2013 - 2:43pm