Obamacare Is Hostage to the Tea Party

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


The most extremist fringe of the Republican Party is ready to cause a failure of the U.S. government, or close down certain services, to demand the removal of the health care reform from the Democratic president.

When it emerged in 2009, the tea party had two reasons for being: to beat Democratic President Barack Obama and to prevent the adoption of his health care reform, the Affordable Care Act — the two symbols of “big government” that it abhors. The reform that the Republicans nicknamed Obamacare, which aims to offer health insurance to 32 million of the 48 million Americans without health insurance, was nonetheless implemented. Several of its components have already taken effect. Many seniors are now saving millions of dollars on their medicine. Young people who are under 26 years old now benefit from the health insurance of their parents. Insurers can no longer refuse a patient who has a medical history.

As Oct. 1 nears, Obamacare opponents have nevertheless found a new opportunity to resist. Under the leadership of the tea party and its Texan representative Ted Cruz, the Republican Party has taken the reform hostage: They will approve the new budget for next year as long as Congress gets rid of the funds needed to implement the Affordable Care Act. The House of Representatives, dominated by the Republicans, accepted this budget bill that, however, leads to a dead end. The Senate, controlled by the Democrats, will never accept such an offensive. Barack Obama, whose reform is the most resounding success of his first term, vowed to use his veto power if necessary. The most extremist fringe of the Republican Party nevertheless remains ready to provoke a closing of the federal government’s nonessential services for the lack of a budget. It announced that it will use the debt ceiling, the $16.7 trillion limit that was already surpassed in May, as leverage to tear apart the reform.

This offensive is causing discomfort for constitutionalists, who are lamenting that a minority of the House of Representatives could be ready to prevent the government, along with a Democrat-dominated Senate, from functioning and from implementing a law that was passed freely and approved by the Supreme Court. For Republicans, the atmosphere is like civil war. The most moderate denounce this “suicidal” tactic that could have a very negative impact on jobs and the economy. As the reference currency, the dollar could suffer. They are worried that such an action will repeat the 1995 scenario. Republican intransigence had provoked the closing of state services, and President Bill Clinton, in a bind, used it as a great advantage to win the re-election easily.

This new psychodrama in Washington is no coincidence. It is time to adopt the budget and to increase the debt ceiling. It is happening right when Obamacare is about to go live. Starting Oct. 1 and until the end of March, Americans will be able to buy, thanks to logistical and financial support from the government, health insurance while being able to compare costs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, there should be 7 million Americans acquiring it during the first year and as many as 22 million by 2016.

The implementation of the reform, the most profound and ambitious undertaking since World War II, still remains very complex. Several mechanisms within the law are supposed to contribute to the reduction of health care costs, which represent nearly 18 percent of the American gross domestic product — a world record — but no one knows if it will work. According to predictions, increases in health-related expenses should not go beyond 5.8 percent over the next decade. This is much less than the 12 percent increase posted in the ‘90s.

The Affordable Care Act also provides for a large expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance for those with the lowest income. But with the Supreme Court deciding to leave this responsibility to the states, nearly half of them (Republican) refused this expansion, although financed by Washington, which would have helped 22 million Americans benefit from health coverage. Now, only half will benefit from it.

The recent outcry has a reason: Obamacare has never been so close to becoming a reality. Heinous campaigns were organized by the tea party throughout the country, with the slogan: Defund Obamacare. They fear that the reform will not be reversible if it is appealing to Americans. Since the adoption of the reform, the House of Representatives has voted more than 40 times for it to be repealed — in vain. The Democratic administration has some responsibility. Barack Obama did a very poor job of selling his reform to Americans, who remain confused about it. This is why it is launching a large offensive this week, with the help of a prestigious speaker: Bill Clinton. The former president has already given several speeches to this effect and has a talent for simplifying the message. At the White House, they certainly hope that it will be enough to be convincing.

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