Now, what’s to enjoy about health insurance? It’s not the insurance itself. It’s the fact that Minnesotans—beginning Oct. 1—can benefit from a federal mandate of a size and scope that rivals the space program and the interstate highway system. And, unless there’s a major change in the U.S. Congress, it will be the last major federal benefit Minnesotans will enjoy for a long, long time.
At the national level, health care opponents are making fools of themselves, threatening to shut down the federal government and default on the nation’s financial obligations unless the President and health care supporters agree to stop the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) from going into effect. It’s reminiscent of the child who is the first to lose in a multi-player card game, scooping up the cards and throwing them at the other players.
Their reasoning is sound, if childish. They know that once Americans experience something that resembles universal health care, they will love it. Americans will also love the people they believe brought it to them, and they will remember those who tried to sabotage the deal. It could mean a long-term surge for progressive Democrats, similar to the one that occurred after another major health care benefit—Medicare—became law in the 1960s. Many who oppose an activist, compassionate federal government remember—or study—the 1960s and 1970s, and don’t want to see a repeat.
Facing all of this, health care opponents are showing what they are made of in a desperate effort to throw around the only weight they have, and it isn’t pretty. Even John McCain—not exactly a bleeding-heart liberal—chides them for failing to admit that they lost fair and square, and move on.
Health care supporters also remember the earlier decades. They enjoyed some cynical rejoicing when their otherwise arch foe Richard Nixon resigned the U.S. Presidency in disgrace. However, Nixon—whose early experience included serious childhood and family illnesses—was a strong believer in universal health care, and in 1974 struck a deal with Sen. Ted Kennedy to get the job done. Nixon’s fall from grace, and health care supporters’ fear that the plan didn’t go far enough, brought the deal down, and it stayed down for 35 years. (In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton tried, but failed, to revive it.)
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. It is, essentially, a Republican law, calling for massive corporate welfare for the already-wealthy health care industry, and implemented at the state level by none other than Mitt Romney—also, not exactly a bleeding heart liberal. In an unprecedented challenge, attorneys general of 26 states descended on the U.S. Supreme Court, demanding that it be overturned. And a Supreme Court conservative enough to ignore the "militia" portion of the Second Amendment, gut the Voting Rights Act and guarantee that corporations have the rights but not the responsibilities of individuals, said Obamacare is okay.
Why, then, is a nearly-united Republican party in Washington D.C. going along with the extreme and childish efforts to keep Americans from receiving the benefits of this very Republican and relatively small step toward the kind of universal health care that the country needs? (Remember, Americans pay more for heath care and get less than any other country in the developed world.)
We see three reasons. One is detailed above. It’s likely to create a popularity for Democrats that could last for a number of years. Another is that it’s likely to create a popularity for universal health care that will lead to the "Medicare for all" that is really needed to bring American health care to the level of the rest of the developed world. The third is very sad and very sinister, but must be dealt with if Americans want to move on from a very ugly part of their past and present.
Yes, the fury of opposition to Obamacare, and the willingness to go to (seemingly) any extreme to destroy it, is happening because the President is Black. From a sitting Congress member yelling "You lie!" in the middle of a Presidential address, to calls to "Take back our country," to the birth certificate fiasco, to the current unprecedented attempts to destroy legislation that has survived every possible legal challenge (and, in part, earned him a substantial re-election margin in 2012), this President has endured relentless efforts to somehow brand his Presidency as illegitimate. It continues, both noisily and quietly, with the help of many Republicans and some Democrats.
What? Playing the race card? Sadly, the other explanations noted above, while compelling, don’t come close to explaining the opponents’ childish vitriol. Again, this is a Republican law (note that the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies are not joining the call to repeal it), modeled after a Republican-administered state-level system. The racist implications of our politicians’ behavior are obvious, and those who might quietly cheer them on need to take a long, hard look at the people for whom they’re carrying water.
So yes, fellow Minnesotans, enjoy MNsure. It has the potential to bring costs down and service levels up, both of which are sorely needed by low-income and middle-class residents. MNsure workers might stumble a few times getting it going, but remember that they’re trying to fix, all at once, a system that’s been broken for decades. We wish them well.