At the beginning of Obama’s term, the Republicans considered “Obamacare” to be a “socialist” statute enacted by the new president. The results of the health care reform, however, have largely been positive: The number of people without health insurance has dramatically decreased, health insurance companies have more clients, and as a result, hospitals have new paying patients. Regardless, the Democrats preferred to take a defensive position during the campaign.
In Barack Obama’s six years in the White House, no statute has been more criticized, attacked and despised by the Republicans than the Affordable Care Act of March 2010. Portrayed as being detrimental to the budget and corrosive for the American spirit, as well as strengthening the hold the federal government has on the lives of young, single people, Obamacare has become the emblem of a hated president for the Republicans. Many Republicans promised to cancel Obamacare when they regained power. As a Republican win seemed imminent, nobody talked about health care reform. Those who did talk about it were more accepting, such as Republican leader Mitch McConnell, when he stated that winning the majority in the Senate did not mean that Obamacare would be repealed.
The fact is that Barack Obama’s health care reform disappeared from the political debates because, despite all the doubts and accusations, it has essentially been working, and has fulfilled many of the president’s promises. First and foremost, it has marked a sharp decrease in the number of uninsured Americans. This year, between 8 and 11 million citizens — there are no reliable statistics yet, which for now are being supplied by unofficial sources — have had access to some form of health care coverage for the first time. The number of people insured by Medicaid has also increased, while according to numerous statistics, millions more are ready to acquire health insurance in the coming months.
The reform has thus achieved the main goal Barack Obama set out in 2010: to make health insurance more accessible. This hasn’t been the only promise that the reform has fulfilled. Eighty-five percent of the 7.3 million Americans who acquired insurance via the health insurance marketplace portal during the first stage of the reform have also enjoyed federal subsidies, which meant that they paid lower insurance premiums. The disaster that many predicted would unfold for the insurance industry never even occurred. Several times over the last few months, Wall Street analysts and experts proved that thanks to Obamacare, insurance companies have more clients, and as a result, the hospitals have new paying patients.
Although lost among the “failures” of Obama’s term, from international crises to the fear and uncertainly that dominates the lives of many Americans, health care reform is a success — at least within its policy framework and according to the standards of American society. It has not been the “socialist” reform that the Republicans argued against, but has actually improved millions of people’s quality of life. It is for this reason that the Republicans, after an initial barrage of criticisms, preferred to draw a veil of silence over the reform and attack Obama and his policies as a whole. At a time when the Democrats needed to boost their image, they discredited themselves by not exalting Obamacare’s favorable results. Instead they accepted the Republicans’ political rhetoric and took a defensive position during the campaign, while the president kept his distance.
There were actually at least two Republicans who constantly criticized Obamacare during the campaign. The first one was Ed Gillespie, a former lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, and candidate for the Senate in Virginia. The second was Mike McFadden, Republican candidate for Minnesota. McFadden stated, “We have a health care issue in this country,” while on his website it is written that the U.S. “can’t go back to the old system either.” Gillespie presented a reform proposal that would repeal Obamacare, substituting it with a system that would offer tax cuts to those who have insurance and offer an “emergency fund,” paid for by the federal government but managed by the states, for those who cannot access a private insurance policy. All the experts have remarked that Gillespie’s proposal would be more expensive for the federal coffers than Obamacare, and that it could decrease the number of insured people. In any case, their attacks on Obamacare do not seem to have helped them, as they have both lost the election.
This year, the Republicans made a big fuss about health care reform. They used every possible chance they had to create conflict and controversy over the reform, which made the public forget its benefits. They used the alleged failure of the reform to create disapproval for Obama’s policies. They will continue to use Obamacare as a weapon of conflict, and will probably even do so in the next few months. Sen. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate, explained that the Republicans do not have the power to repeal the reform, and Obama would probably veto any attempt to destroy the “heart” of his statute. Repealing Obamacare, however, will remain the Republicans’ legislative “priority.” In view of the 2016 presidential election, this is the tea party Republicans’ way of letting their anger fester and getting back at Obama for his “socialist” legislation.