While there certainly are problems in the Affordable Care Act that require correction, both parties have repeatedly adopted the wrong approach, beginning with initial passage of the law. Democrats strong armed the bill into law in a one-sided approach that refused to provide Republicans with true meaningful input. As a result, the GOP’s attitude and goal has constantly been nothing short of a full repeal by any means possible while the Democrats have been as equally unwavering in their staunch insistence to implement everything in the law without alterations. While it’s understandable that both sides seek to show voters that they hold fast to their ideals, they apparently fail to realize that being a member of Congress requires you to compromise with those who do not share your views.
Not once have Democrats and Republicans sat down and genuinely worked together to address and improve the problems in the Affordable Care Act. Some of the problems that some have experienced since the October 1 rollout include glitches with the healthcare.gov website and reports of consumers facing substantial rate increases for their private insurance plans as many politicians had warned. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act fundamentally changed the impact of the law. By upholding the individual mandate but striking down the requirement for states to expand Medicaid coverage, this opened a crack into that many Americans will fall. A crack that Congress has had more than a year to fill, yet failed to do so.
Although the law provides government subsidies to help low-income families pay for coverage, those subsidies only become available at 100 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $23,550.00 per year for a family of four. Fifteen percent of American households live below the federal poverty level. That’s 46 million Americans in poverty who do not qualify for the government subsidies because they were expected to be covered by the Medicaid expansion. However, with states now free to refuse the Medicaid expansion, as 25 have stated they will do, many American families now find themselves in a situation where they are unrealistically required to pay for insurance that in some cases can cost more than their monthly income. Don’t believe me? Explore the Kaiser Foundation’s subsidy calculator and see for yourself.
Now Congress has escalated their differences over the Affordable Care Act to a whole new level by forcing a partial shutdown of the federal government, further adding to their list of failures. There is absolutely no reason why the lives of millions of people should have been disrupted and the nation’s reputation tarnished.
- More than 800,000 government employees have suffered at least a one week furlough; most are still out of work
- Millions of families have had their vacations and travel plans disrupted causing financial losses that will not be reimbursed
- Businesses that rely on tourist revenue are losing money
- Federal contractors are not being paid
- Americans whose homes and businesses sit on federal lands are being forced to leave
- Military death benefits have been frozen
- Health and public safety efforts have been all but stopped, posing higher risks to the nation
- The country is floundering on the world stage as America’s allies grow uneasy and our foes mock us
The list goes on and on with each day bringing new reports of disruptions resulting from this congressional feud.
The Democrats are correct in believing that the Affordable Care Act should remain a separate issue. It should have no basis on whether to fund the government and ensure that those employees receive timely paychecks in order to provide for their families. Even though it’s possible that many of those employees will receive retroactive pay once the shutdown ends and most of the furloughed DOD employees have been recalled, the others who are still out of work cannot simply fail to pay their bills if this shutdown drags on.
Since the shutdown began, Democrats have repeatedly refused to negotiate, stating they will accept nothing less than a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government while Republicans have attempted to pass legislation to reopen individual parts in a piecemeal process. Speaker Boehner has the power to introduce a clean continuing resolution to the House but refuses due to pressure from Tea Party-backed Republicans. Once again both sides refuse to put aside their differences and reach a compromise for the betterment of the country as a whole.
“I’ve compromised,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview on Monday, pointing to Democrats’ agreement to accept a 2014 budget resolution that is $70 billion less than what they wanted. “I’m not doing it any more. Neither is the president.”
“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” Speaker Boehner said in a television interview. “I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit, and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”
After claiming that it’s the president who is risking default, the Speaker went on to say he lacks the votes to pass a continuing resolution without conditions attached. If that’s truly the case then he shouldn’t have a problem with introducing those bills to the floor so the American public can see for themselves. Otherwise his statements are just more useless rhetoric and political posturing designed to distract from the truth. However, recent polls suggest that the American public is not falling for it, with a majority of voters blaming Republicans for the current stalemate.
That’s a sentiment that even some Republican members of Congress have acknowledged. California Republican Representative Devin Nunes has lambasted members of his own party, calling them lemmings for following the lead of Sen. Ted Cruz. In an interview with the National Review he stated, “I’m not here to play political power games, and I’ve had enough of people playing political power games and this has just gone on too long.”
As the shutdown is now in the second week, we are moving closer to the looming debt ceiling debate, which threatens to cause the nation to default on debt payments, sending the U.S. and world economies back into financial crisis, yet the politicians are still playing their games. And now some Republicans are now trying to downplay the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, stating that there’s no way to know for sure what will happen since it’s uncharted territory. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics or even household budgeting knows that there are dire consequences when you don’t pay your bills.
For a group who claims to be trying to help save Americans from the potential financial hardships of Obamacare, the GOP didn’t think twice about subjecting Americans and their families to the potential financial hardships of the shutdown or the economic fallout from the looming debt ceiling crisis. At the same time, Democrats are championing their expanded healthcare coverage while the National Institutes of Health is forced to turn away 200 patients per week and public health and safety programs falter while the nation is in the midst of a salmonella outbreak. These examples are the epitome of carelessness, recklessness, and hypocrisy.
Had Congress spent the last three years working together to refine and tweak the Affordable Care Act as opposed to repeatedly locking horns in a charade of political posturing, real progress and problem solving could have been accomplished; progress that would have resulted in truly beneficial healthcare reform for the entire nation while avoiding the shutdown and impending debt ceiling crisis. Instead their actions have put us in a situation that is neither the hope and change nor the fiscal responsibility that the American people wanted. Therefore, each and every member of Congress should be ashamed of their utter failure and total disservice to the American people.