Posted by: JanF | November 14, 2013

Hey, hold on! There’s a baby in that bathwater!!!

On Wednesday, Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released the sign-up numbers for the first month of enrollments via the insurance marketplace. They were modest but hopeful: showing not as many signups as expected but a lot of people who have started the process of shopping for a policy.

Elsewhere in Washington D.C., Senate Democrats were preparing legislation that would destroy the Affordable Care Act and crush the spirits of those who are uninsured and underinsured and who desperately need affordable health care.

Why do I call out Senate Democrats when Republicans have been just as guilty in this regard? Because Democrats should know better. Because the people who voted for the law should know something about the law. And because I am ashamed of them.

Polls released this week show that the generic Democrat and the generic Republican are now tied in the 2014 mid-terms. So two candidates who don’t even exist (and are an invention of the horserace-obsessed media) are tied in an election almost a year from now. Democrats, who had seen a double-digit gap in that mythical race as recently as a month ago, have decided to set their hair on fire and in the process torch the hopes of those who see affordable health care as a core Democratic Party principle.

How did we get to this point? Well, it started when the rollout of the most visible component of the new law, the federal marketplace website, was a grade A failure and when the 10-second-news-cycle media needed a story that would require little or no research (“I clicked and the web site was busy: Obamacare FAIL!!!”). Then when that stopped being interesting (computer code!! zzzzzz), the media pivoted to the story of cancellation notices from insurance companies and a “promise by President Obama” that was less a promise than an attempt to explain something without getting too deep into the weeds on policy. And, look! It was another story that needed little or no research (“I read somewhere that someone who had a crappy policy had their policy cancelled: Obamacare FAIL!”).

And then a former Democratic president with legacy envy who still holds a grudge against the man who is the actual first black president, decides to throw in his lot with that president’s political enemies; people who don’t understand or are willfully ignoring that you can’t keep a crappy insurance policy that does not meet the standards of a law passed by Congress, signed by the president, and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The law is protecting people from those substandard policies, policies like the one in Florida where a woman was paying an insurance company $54 a month for a policy that does not even cover hospitalization. Insurance policies that FAIL at the emergency room door and whose failure leads directly to increased costs to everyone who uses medical care. And a law that needs all the pieces of the marketplace reforms, you can’t just cherry-pick those any more than you can delay the mandate … it is a package of reforms that hang together to achieve the goal of affordable health insurance.

When you purchase auto insurance, the state sets minimums for coverage for property damage and bodily injury. That is so that your insurance actually protects you from liability and actually pays someone who is injured by an accident you cause. Your policy also includes coverage for uninsured drivers in the event that the person who hit you has no insurance. And you have to pay for that!!! And the government requires you to!!! Insurance companies are not allowed to even offer an auto policy that does not include that basic coverage. And there are few screams about freedoms being trampled (although I suspect that Rand Paul hates it).

So the people who are complaining that the government is setting standards, and that the law states that your crappy policy should be flushed away, need to get a grip on reality.

And former presidents whose legacy includes NAFTA and DADT and DOMA and the repeal of Glass-Steagal and that other thing, and who now has Dick Cheney agreeing with him should just shut the heck up. You don’t get to be president for life, this is 2013, and the politics of kumbaya were bludgeoned in a back room when that other thing led to an election in 2000 that was close enough to steal.

But I digress.

Our current president, Barack Obama, and HHS Secretary Sebelius need to know that we have their back.

Please, take your time to finish the job of implementing the Affordable Care Act. If you have to make changes, make changes that don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, changes such as increasing the subsidies to help those whose policies were cancelled to transition more seamlessly into the new marketplace. Don’t make changes that could make the law fail in 2015 when the risk pools which don’t include healthy people cause spikes in premiums. We want this law in place for us and for our children and for our grandchildren.

Listen to your hearts and remember this part of why passing the ACA was such a Big Huge Deal (to paraphrase Joe Biden):

And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.