In what seems to be a replay of the Government Shutdown of 1995-1996 engineered by the then Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich seems familiar to those of another generation, then perhaps you are hearing echoes of the past – albeit replayed with another Democratic president, Barack Obama.
This time the threat of the shutdown is linked to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, a program, first seen in Massachusetts, by a Republican Governor, Mitt Romney, that gave healthcare to that states’ residents.
Now, in the hands of a Democrat, the program has been branded as socialist, socialized medicine, and “unworkable,” never mind the fact that most Americans could not define what socialism is, or is not, is beside the point.
While the Republican Party has tried to shift its public image form one that seems to most to be narrow-minded, and even pedantic, the fact remains that while they have been vociferous in their opinion of the ACA, they have suggested nothing as an alternate – suggesting that the objection is not one of ideology, but one of politics.
While their intents, often stated, was to have made President Obama, a one-term president, not succeeding at that, they have decided to ensure that his legacy policy is dead on arrival.
Beltway politics aside, what has happened is that 15.4 percent of Americans are uninsured, and while that figure has decreased, the irony is that most of the increase has been to those that have received assistance from other government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Statistically, the numbers work out to more than 45 million lacking healthcare in the US last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as reported by Huffington Post.
The New York Times reporting last week from the Census Bureau said:” David S. Johnson, the chief of social and economic statistics at the bureau, said that much of the increase in coverage last year was attributable to government programs. Medicare covered 15.7 percent of the population, compared with 15.2 percent the previous year.”
A decline in private health insurance plans may be a reflection of the new economy which has many people working with no medical benefits at all.
Significantly, those in the South and Western parts of the country (which are 61 percent of total population) represent 71 percent of the nation’s uninsured, and their opposition to the so-called Obamacare has been significant, showing perhaps a lack of self-interest, or as some observers say, a racially based decision, due to the fact that the program is the work of an African-American president.
In Illinois, the president’s home state, the health care exchanges, marketplaces where the uninsured can begin to shop for insurance, using federal subsidies, opens on Tuesday, and where local politicians are holding information sessions.
Yet many are unmotivated to join; and contain those that see themselves as invincible, such as the healthy young, but yet are needed to lessen the risk pool in Obama’s plan and keep costs down.
While the Census report shows some expected stats for the uninsured: mostly, poor, there are also some surprises, such as this: 55 percent of the uninsured are male, but perhaps one closely held belief is shattered, as the report notes, and as Kaiser Health News, notes, “44.8 percent of the uninsured are white, 32.4 percent are Latino and 14.9 percent are black;” thus showing race as not being the predictor that it is often thought of.
The Obama administration has been criticized by its supporters as not having told enough about how the program works according, yet Kaiser also notes that a lot of people simply don’t know how insurance plans work, citing cost as a main deterrent to investigating health care options.
While the partisanship has not made things easy for the White House, many Americans have tradition to blame, in part for the inertia, or opposition.
As the American Association for Retired People (AARP) noted quoting Alice Rivlin, of the Brookings Institute, “We have a long history of relying on private sector markets and resorting to government regulation and provision of services only where markets fail,” and also notes that the powerful tradition of state’s rights (long-held since the beginning of the Republic) shows a certain distrust for the role of central government, in something as intimate as health care.
The irony, however, is that according to healthcare observer Robert Martin, “The United States spends significantly more on healthcare than other industrialized nations; both on a per capita level and as a percentage of GDP – in fact spending more than 13% of GDP on healthcare expenses in 2000.”
Whether the government shutdown will occur or not is a question that won’t be answered this weekend, but if so, at a future date may, or may not, be the death knell for Obamacare; it may be that Americans simply aren’t ready for such a wide-sweeping program.