In her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Sarah Palin ripped off an old chain email, mangled Doctor Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” and declared that “Yes, we can” has become “No, we can’t” under Obamacare. “This is the guy who promised to provide for the sick,” Palin told CPAC attendees, “but there are more uninsured today than when Obama began all of this.”
Here are a few things Obamacare can do, has done, and will do, that conservatives can’t and never will.
What Obamacare Can Do (And Is Already Doing)
- Lower the number of uninsured Americans. Palin couldn’t be more wrong. Last year, Gallup reported that the number of uninsured Americans has hit a five-year low, but it was too soon to tell whether it was due to Obamacare or a “statistical fluke.” Today, Gallup reports that the number of uninsured Americans has dropped for three straight quarters. With Obamacare at more than 4 million enrollments, it’s no longer a “statistical fluke.”
- Give Americans more freedom. Obamacare is freeing millions of Americans from horrible bosses and jobs they hate, but kept just to hold on to health insurance. Last month, the CBO predicted a drop in work hours, “because workers will choose to supply less labor,” thanks to the benefits of health care reform. Republicans think it’s just terrible that Obamacare is freeing 11 million American workers from “job lock” — the modern equivalent of indentured servitude.
- Increase wages and reduce unemployment. By making it easier for some people to cut back hours or stop working just to keep their health insurance, health care reform could mean higher wages for remaining workers, and more jobs open to the unemployed.
- Reduce medical bankruptcy. Health care reform may mean fewer medical bankruptcies, as it does away with annual and lifetime spending caps, and increases financial security for those struggling with medical costs.
- Increase consumer spending. Obamacare is still not bankrupting the country, but it is boosting household income and consumer spending through tax credits and the Medicaid expansion.
What Conservatives Can’t or Won’t Do
- Repeal Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz may still believe Republicans can repeal Obamacare while Obama is still in office. After 50 failed attempts it’s not going to happen. Most Americans are against repealing Obamacare and tired of the GOP’s pointless attempts at repeal. Most Americans either support Obamacare or believe it doesn’t go far enough, and support for Obamacare is rising.
- Replace Obamacare. Republicans put themselves on the hook to produce an alternative to Obamacare. The alternative was a long time coming, and it was D.O.A. The CBO reported that the House GOP’s Obamacare “fix” would:
- Cause 1 million workers to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance;
- Increase the number of uninsured by up to 500,000;
- Increase the federal deficit by $83 billion over 10 years;
- Keep hospitals open and expand medical care for the poor. Obamacare didn’t have one, so Republican governors formed their own “death panel,” by refusing to expand Medicaid their states, screwing over million low-income Americans in the process. The latest consequence is a wave of rural hospital closures. Rejecting the Medicaid expansion proved fatal for hospitals serving low-income populations in rural areas — for whom the nearest hospital is now hours away.
- Find any real Obamacare horror stories. Just as their other false claims about Obamacare, conservatives’ “Obamacare horror stories” turned out to be bogus. Maybe there are no genuine “horror stories” about Obamacare.
- Produce an alternative that expands coverage. Unable to repeal or replace Obamacare, conservatives are now trying to keep it from expanding coverage. Republican lawmakers in several states have pushed through bills designed to keep people from getting help from specially trained “navigators,” who can help them get enrolled and find affordable coverage.
- Produce an alternative that lowers health care costs. Conservatives would rather kick the desperately ill to the curb. Georgia governor Nathan Deal has proposed reducing health care costs by allowing hospitals to turn people away from emergency rooms. Republicans like Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) agree.
Conservatives can’t reform health care for the same reason they can’t fix poverty. They don’t want to. They didn’t see anything wrong with the old system, and never made a serious effort to fix it. Conservative economist Tyler Cohen stated it explicitly when he defined the principles of conservative health care reform.
We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor. Some of you don’t like the sound of that, but we already let the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree. We shouldn’t screw up our health care institutions by being determined to fight inegalitarian principles for one very select set of factors which determine health care outcomes.
Obamacare isn’t perfect. It still leaves 31 million uninsured, because it’s not a universal program. But conservatives don’t have an alternative path to health care reform that even comes close to accomplishing what Obamacare does, because it would run counter to their core ideology. That’s not a “bug” of conservative health policy. It’s a feature.