I have a friend who has owned a small restaurant in Tampa for decades. He voted for Donald Trump for two important reasons: Trump isn’t Hillary Clinton, and he hates Obamacare.
Let me rephrase that: He doesn’t like Hillary, but he loathes Obamacare with unyielding venom. Keeping up with its requirements, he said, has been an expensive nightmare. He wants it gone.
This is a kind and decent man who is all-in on goodness. He is charitable, law-abiding and is happy to lend a hand. So, over several plates of bacon and eggs at his joint, I have deduced that his position can best be summed up like this: He wants his employees and anyone in need to have access to health care, but he despises the bureaucracy and costs imposed by Obamacare.
It looks like he is going to get his way as the Republican-controlled Congress is tripping over itself to defund, defeat and dethrone the signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama’s administration. But then what?
Well, to borrow the infamous quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was coming to life, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
That quote was taken out of context and fed to Pelosi for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with Obama’s vow that people could keep the doctors they liked. That became the rallying cry for opponents, but Trump now basically is saying the same thing – promising Americans that law will be replaced with something great.
While we wait for greatness, consider these Florida statistics from a recent federal Health and Human Services report.
— An estimated 132,000 young Floridians have been able to keep insurance by the provision allowing them to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.
— It claims premiums grew 1.3 percent annually from 2010-2015, far less than the 8.2 percent of the previous decade.
Hold on just a minute there.
The HHS apparently forgot to include the estimated 25 percent premium hike for Floridians this year. There are many factors for that, especially the fact that far fewer people enrolled in Obamacare than the government projected and fewer insurers are offering coverage now that federal backstops against financial losses have been phased out.
All this sets up as a trap for Republicans in their zeal to end the program, though.
With lower enrollments than expected and the end to the safety net for insurance companies, any plan Republicans pass to replace the ACA probably will come up short of what Obamacare offered.
I can see the attack ads now when congressional seats are up for grabs in two years.
Incoming HHS head Tom Price of Georgia, a ferocious critic of Obamacare, has proposed a plan that would include a series of tax credits, health savings accounts, state grants and so on. Analysists have said Price’s proposal, if adopted, could mean reduced coverage and much higher premiums, especially for older Americans.
Republicans have the votes, for now, to move ahead with something. What that is, though, is anyone’s guess – especially Republicans. After barking their hatred for Obamacare for six years, they have, in the words of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, become “the dog that caught the car.”
I know my friend would say to get rid of Obamacare and we’ll out the consequences later.
My take is a little different. I know this makes some people cringe, but I think health care is a right in a civilized society. It’s not something only those who can afford it should have. If Republicans have a better idea, let’s hear it.
After all, as Schumer said, they caught the car. They need to do more than just pee on the tires.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.