It survived six grueling months in 2009 into early 2010 of hearings, debates, propaganda—both pro and con—and an unprecedented act of partisan solidarity to be passed. It survived waves of protests and court hearings, ending up in two Supreme Court decisions upholding it. It spawned and survived the TEA Party movement and stood strong against hundreds of elections by candidates deriding it and promising to repeal it, culminating in both the re-election of the president that bares its nickname and later a president that has acted like a political battering-ram to the system. It survived 50-plus votes by congress to wipe it out and three recent attempts by the opposition party that promised for seven years to bring about its demise. Through it all it went from a dismal 36-percent approval rating to now a rousing majority of support from the American people. The Affordable Care Act is the most hearty, defiant and impenetrable slice of legislation this nation has seen in a century or more. It may take a second Civil War to take it down.
The latest grandstand by this bull-tit Senate, which concocted the second of two bills that stands at a laughable 14-percent approval from the citizenry and could not even get a vote, is a prime example of the invincibility of “Obamacare”. The hue and cry from those who opposed it (I am one) that once it was enacted it would be nearly impossible to rip from the system has come to pass. This was always the point made by this space for lo these past seven years: Why would anyone believe Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz or John Boehner or Paul Ryan or the current buffoon inhabiting the White House when they said, “I shall repeal Obamacare the first day I am in office!”
Remember that crap, kids? “Just give us the House, just give us the Senate, just give us the White House; we’ll skunk this thing.” Right. This generation’s two-chickens-in-every-pot nonsense that we believe when we think we hate something as much as the ACA, when in reality we don’t. This law has gotten the sort of press accompanying Prohibition or the Missouri Compromise when it is nothing more than another flaccid and bloated half-assed attempt by our government to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. (Also a point made by this space for years.) And as much as people love to joke about how our game-show host president knows less about national health care than your pet, how many of us comprehend the magnitude of this thing and why it is so unbeatable?
Firstly, although presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton (well, Hillary, really) all proposed far more progressive versions of national health care dating back to the late 1940s, the framework of the ACA was actually devised by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing “think tank” filled with antiquated philosophy long since dismissed as madness by the rest of the planet, like the Freemasons without the fancy robes. It was cleverly titled, “Health Equity and Access Reform Today” or HEART, and it was the template for “Obamacare”, plain and simple.
In 1993, the then president thought it a nifty idea to have his unelected wife present what amounted to a single-payer, true socialist bill for universal health care to a congress that would be, it turned out, under siege from the opposition party. By ’94 the first Republican-controlled congress in three generations took the Hill to thwart this exercise with extreme prejudice, but not before the dullards at the Heritage Foundation put together what can now be deemed the infamous manifesto for what would become the Affordable Care Act. Penned by Republican Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island it included among many of the most popular portions of the ACA; creation of purchasing pools, standardized benefits, vouchers for the poor to buy insurance, and a ban on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition.
The Republicans more or less presented HEART as a centrist answer to a wildly over-reaching government-controlled health care system practiced by European countries, Canada, etc. And it was that construct that first inspired and then prompted what President Barack Obama proposed to then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cobble into a bill that would become the law that cannot be felled even as its opposition party holds sway over all of Washington DC.
To be fair, the final version of the ACA did not include the expansion of Medicare and a federal government pool of money given to states to run it in order to off-set costs. And it is that portion of the law that has been upheld as constitutional in two Supreme Court challenges and gotten conservatives up in arms and its proponents a fulcrum in which to defend it. If the government can tax or force young men to go overseas to die, then it can certainly control the marketplace. It is that key segment of the ACA that allows the government (a tax) to mandate the purchase of something you might not feel you want or need, like state mandates for driver’s licenses or automobile insurance or the dozens of other things the federal and local governments deem you must possess to move about in our social contract.
And here is where the doom of lies the Republicans have existed on regarding the ACA comes home to roost and has led to the farce that you have been enduring on this issue since Donald Trump stumbled into the presidency. You see, while Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is a feeble and useless government lackey, he is also very stupid. Speaker Paul Ryan, not so much, as he is more a legislative intellectual stuck in a compromising position when he would much rather lift weights and jack off to photos of Ayn Rand. And…well…the aforementioned Donald Trump probably now wishes he was still on TV making fun of Rosie O’Donnell, judging beauty contests and wrestling Vince McMahon. All of these politicians and more have been comparing “Obamacare” to the Third Reich and bone cancer, when it is probably the most workable legislation on the concept of national health care possible in this day and age.
If it were proposed by a President John McCain or Mitt Romney (who took the Heritage Foundation model and enacted it in Massachusetts while governor between 2003 to 2007), it may look close to what the Republicans are now trying to mash-up just to look like they’re doing something. But since it was a Democratic president and congress that pushed it through it was wrongly considered some kind of socialist monstrosity. It’s a messy, mostly bureaucratic pile of shit, but it has its benefits and those are what cause this hamstrung congress to balk at “fixing” it, because fixing it means rubber-stamping its existence when they really want to just bag it.
There have been a series of congresses that have suckered the American people into thinking they had the power or fortitude to stop badly run wars (2006) or a law effecting one-sixth of the U.S. economy (2010, 2012, 2016). But there are still wars and the ACA rolls on and there is seemingly nothing that can be done about either with the current crop. Even a gutless vote (which will never pass) to just repeal the thing will be the culmination of another promise that cannot and will not be kept.
And thus the ACA is a winner; it cannot be stopped.
Rocky Marciano was an undefeated heavyweight champ, but even he only won 49 consecutive bouts, the ACA is something like 62-0.
Love it or hate it; that is one tough son of a bitch of a law.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud—The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.