Playing Chicken On Healthcare

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David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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The worst political slogan of 2017?  It might be early in the political year,  but if you ponder the brazen stupidity of “make America sick again” – now featured in its own hashtag – then it becomes clear that it will be real contender no matter what other madness occurs on Capitol Hill.  Of course the premise of this weird and desperate attempt by the Democratic leadership to appear relevant is beyond absurd:  as if Obamacare has actually made Americans less sick, especially those who have to work for a living and somehow pay for everyone else’s healthcare.

Yeah, sounds positively therapeutic.

So why are the Republicans playing chicken with this issue?  Why all the nonsense about whether we repeal Obamacare now or later; whether we come up with the alternate plan in six months or six years?   Why all the fuss about who is going to get blamed for the disaster that the GOP seems to fear and anticipate?  I would expect this from RINOs like Sen. John McCain or the increasingly unhinged Sen. Lindsey Graham, now vowing to take down Trump.  But they are too busy banging the drums of war with Russia and taking national intelligence grand poobah James Clapper seriously to be distracted by something so trivial as healthcare.

The Republicans should already have a plan and it shouldn’t be a secret.  It doesn’t need to be a product of a second Manhattan Project, this one designed to not unlock the atom but find that elusive response to repeal.

Whatever happened to the private sector?  When did government begin to be an answer and not a problem for Republicans?

And it’s not just about how the private sector can provide better healthcare than the government — it’s about how, after eight years of President Barack Obama, the state is increasingly providing a livelihood, from subsistence to enhanced, for too many Americans.  Obama admired the European model of a cash-dispensing government that is responsive to any public demand and highly expensive to run.

The reason the Republicans are afraid of tinkering with Obamacare is quite simple:  it may be a swindle if you’re gainfully employed but it works out terribly well if you’re part of the unemployed subclass that does not invest a cent into the plan and do not blink when told that rates are going to rise by 30 percent or more.  Thirty percent of nothing is still nothing.

But if they pay, they sure know how to play the media and grab attention and that’s what is keeping some GOP legislators up at night.

When President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid – for good or ill – there was an assumption among both Democrats and Republicans that universal health care was first, too expensive, and second, unnecessary, because the vast majority of Americans had good jobs and could afford private healthcare insurance.

Good jobs — in the private sector — are increasingly elusive.  Despite all of the self-promoting verbiage escaping from Obama’s lips every time he has one more “last news conference” about how many jobs his administration has created or how much prosperity Americans enjoy, it’s all a paper accomplishment.

Not that Hillary Clinton didn’t have other healthcare plans. Had she won the White House, “make  America sick again” might really have been a frightfully relevant slogan for a Clinton presidency.

In her speeches, Clinton sometimes can be heard imaging the future of health care in America – and it is certainly one that is even more state-controlled than  the current model.  Clinton clearly admired the single-payer system that Canada has adopted, where the government assumes all responsibility for basic health care costs and taxes the population accordingly.

You will hear glowing reports from the Canadian government about how fair healthcare is.  But you have to dig a little deeper to learn how many Canadians run across the American border to get an operation:   According to a 2015 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the average wait time for a hip replacement surgery in Canada is 6 months or 182 days.
So it’s time for the GOP to get focused on making repeal of Obamacare a win-win and not a crap shoot.

And the Democrats?  Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer love to tell Republicans how if they break Obamacare, they will have bought it and they will have to fix it.

Obamacare was always broken.  It’s not worth buying at any price.  And, after two presidential terms of Obama’s “that government is best which governs most” philosophy, there’s a lot more in this country that needs fixing.

Follow David on Twitter @David.Krayden