Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who helped co-author Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, says the bill is too complicated and Congress probably shouldn’t have passed it at all.
Harkin, a liberal senator who’s in favor of a single-payer health-care system, told The Hill Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act turned out too complicated and doesn’t actually make health care more affordable for most people. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Harkin was instrumental in constructing Obamacare and getting the bill passed, but is retiring this year.
“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it,” Harkin told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.”
Harkin’s the second high-profile Democrat to pull his support from the law. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said in November that Congress should not have passed Obamacare because the law does not help the middle class. (RELATED: Schumer: We Shouldn’t Have Passed Obamacare In 2010)
“Unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health-care reform.”
Harkin is less worried about the middle class and more concerned that Obamacare lacks a government-provided coverage option.
“What we did is we muddled through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” Harkin continued. Insurance companies are some of the biggest beneficiaries of Obamacare now that all Americans are required to purchase their product and many are given federal subsidies to do so. (RELATED: GAO: Largest Health Insurers Have Gotten Even Bigger Since Obamacare Passed)
“We had the votes in ’09” for a law included single-payer or a public option, Harkin said. “We had a huge majority in the House, we had 60 votes in the Senate.”
The retiring senator charged that Congress should have passed “single-payer right from the get-go or at least put a public option, would have simplified a lot,” according to The Hill. “We had the votes to do that and we blew it.”
“The House passed public option. We had the votes in the Senate for cloture,” Harkin argued. “There were only three Democrats that held out and we could have had those three,” he said, referring to Sens. Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. “We could have had all three of them if the president would have been just willing to do some political things but he wouldn’t do it.”
Obamacare turned out unnecessarily complicated, Harkin explained, because Democrats were attempting to appease the few senators who were still on the fence about voting for the law. “So as a result we’ve got this complicated thing out there called the Affordable Care Act,” he concluded.