Despite the Supreme Court's affirmation of the Affordable Care Act, the national Republican Party is going into November railing against health care reform and resisting implementation of the new law.
The defection of Chief Justice John Roberts hurt the conservative storyline on health care reform--that it is an unconstitutional socialist plot. But, politically, the Republicans are still planning to use repeal of so-called "ObamaCare" as a major issue in the campaign.
We'll see how successful that is. After all, with more uninsured citizens than any other industrialized country, and widespread dissatisfaction with our health care system, it seems unlikely that running against reform--and defending the status quo--is a winning message.
Expanding access to health care by letting kids stay on their parents' policies until they are twenty-six, and curtailing insurance companies' ability to deny care to people with p conditions like cancer, are popular elements of the Affordable Care Act.
While some people might not like the individual mandate the Court upheld, and much will be made of Roberts calling it a "tax," there are too many problems with the current system to make the anti-reform message all that popular.
Furthermore, as inadequate as it is, ever the Democrats took single-payer health care off the table--the Affordable Care Act shows the vast majority of Americans, who are not rich, that the Democrats have something concrete to offer them.
This is precisely what they need to start winning elections.
If the dismal results of the recall effort in Wisconsin show anything, it is that many low and moderate income Americans do not believe the Democratic Party or unions have their back. They voted for Walker--and against the health care and retirement benefits public sector workers enjoy--because they don't see "the modern equivalent of rural electrification or the G.I. Bill," as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe put it.
Health care reform--even the modest expansion Obama has managed to achieve--is an exception.
On the other side, the Republicans are showing their true colors on health care reform. For most people, they favor no health care at all.
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin immediately denounced the Supreme Court ruling and declared that he would not implement the Affordable Care Act, ignoring the law's timetable until November. His attorney general then contradicted him, with a public statement that the state is required by law to start meeting the federal timetable.
This is not the first time Walker has tried to shirk his legal obligation to provide health care to poor Wisconsinites. He recently attempted to cut 29,000 children off BadgerCare, Wisconsin's health care program for low-income families, but the federal government blocked the move. He also was blocked from ending Transitional Medical Assistance, a welfare-to-work program that extends BadgerCare benefits for a year after a former welfare recipient gets a new job.
By declaring that Wisconsin is in a budget deficit, Walker was able to implement new premium payments for adults who make more than 133% of the poverty level.
The new premium payments and restrictions include moving people off the program if they are married to someone who has even expensive and inadequate employer-provided health care, cutting people off entirely for a full year instead of six months if they miss a premium payment, and increasing premiums for non-pregnant and non-disabled people who make more than 150% of poverty.
In addition, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families reports that the Walker administration "is still seeking federal approval of a proposal to create a plan with much higher co-pays and more limited benefits, which would cover families with income over the poverty level. If it is approved, the Alternative Benchmark Plan would adversely affect more than 300,000 BadgerCare participants."
Clap-trap about "freedom from government intrusion" does not disguise the mean-spiritedness of these policies.
Maybe now that the Supreme Court has affirmed the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will be emboldened to actually run on it.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Will Labor Learn Recall's Lessons in Battleground States?"
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