According to polls, 56% of Americans favor repealing the health care reform law. Then again, a decision on fundamental rights and constitutionality should not be a popularity contest. What’s more, according another poll, 1 in 7 Americans believes the Supreme Court has already repealed the Affordable Care Act. So much for polling.
How’s about, instead, we look at some facts:
1. Millions of Americans have already benefited from ObamaCare
In 2011, an estimated 86 million Americans used provisions in the Affordable Care Act to get preventative care through their insurance plans, care that insurance companies previously subjected to co-pays or deductibles but now must provide for free. Over 2.5 million seniors have saved an estimated $1.5 billion thanks to prescription drug discounts included in health care reform.
At least 2.5 million young people now can stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. And 4 million small businesses can now claim a tax deduction for providing health insurance to their employees, which so far over a quarter-million small businesses have claimed, providing insurance for 2 million workers.
2. The law won’t fully take effect until 2014
It’s amazing all the pre-emptive attacks on a law that, for the most part, hasn’t gone into effect yet. You can check out this timeline of the various provisions of the Affordable Care Act and when they will take effect.
The controversial “individual mandate” at the center of the Supreme Court arguments this week doesn’t kick in until 2014. What this means is that the cost containment provisions in the Affordable Care Act haven’t gone into effect yet either, and meanwhile critics are attacking the law based largely on hypothetical future predictions.
In fact, on Monday, the Supreme Court considered whether interest groups or individuals can file suit against a provision in the law that hasn’t even been enforced yet.
3. The individual mandate was originally a Republican idea.
Recently, President Obama’s senior adviser David Plouffe called Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney “the godfather of the individual mandate.” At a GOP primary debate in 2011, Romney said, “We got the idea of an individual mandate…from [Newt Gingrich], and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation.”
In fact, the idea of requiring businesses or individuals to provide and pay for health insurance traces at least as far back as Richard Nixon, who in 1974 proposed a mandate that “every employer would be required to offer all full-time employees the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan,” the insurance plan Nixon was pushing.
In 1989, Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation shifted the conservative frame from an employer mandate to an individual mandate, writing:
If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services—even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab…. A mandate on households certainly would force those with adequate means to obtain insurance protection, which would end the problem of middle-class “free riders” on society’s sense of obligation.
Incidentally, Butler has recently tried to renounce his invention of the individual mandate, but it appears to me that his reasoning reads something like, “I was for it when it was a Republican idea and am against it now that Democrats embraced it.”
4. The Congressional Budget Office recently cut health care reform’s cost estimates.
Conservatives have relied on apples-to-oranges accounting gimmicks to suggest the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently doubled the cost estimates for the Affordable Care Act.
In fact, the CBO adjusted its estimates to say the Affordable Care Act will cost less than originally projected. Moreover, the CBO has said that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit by $210 billion.
5. Something had to be done about health care
The fact is, almost three-quarters of Americans saw health care reform as an urgent priority in the fall of 2009.
President Obama had a plan.
Republicans did not.
Still today, the president is trying to adapt and confirm the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to meet the needs of all Americans while keeping costs down. Republicans are simply putting forward another budget that slashes Medicare and middle class benefits while giving more tax breaks to the rich.
At the end of the day, while Americans are still on the fence about the Affordable Care Act as a blanket concept, when asked about particular remedies that the law includes, the public is overwhelmingly supportive.
This suggests that the president has a messaging problem, not a policy problem --- whereas the Republicans simply lack any substantive alternative, let alone a popular one.
All of the above suggests that the current fight over health care reform has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act and everything to do with the president who signed it.
Never mind the fact that the law already shows promising and valuable impact even before it’s fully in effect. Never mind the fact that cost estimates are dropping and, starting in 2014, the law will contain overall health care costs that are crippling our household budgets.
Never mind the fact that the central component of the law was a Republican idea. Conservative ideologues are willing to sacrifice much-needed health care reform and the well-being of millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance or are being denied care because of pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps on spending or other injustices -- all for the sick goal of undermining President Obama.
Fortunately, about a third of the country -- moderate and swing voters -- haven’t made up their mind and are ready to listen to the president, who needs to a better job in the 2012 campaign of defining the benefits of his health care reform. But especially when faced with the alternative -- a Republcan Party increasingly concerned only with the health and well-being of the 1% -- voters will back the president and their own best interest to have health and prosperity for all Americans.
Sally Kohn is a Fox News contributor and grassroots strategist. You can find her online at http://sallykohn.com.