September 29, 2013

The American People Have Spoken

While I was sitting here late last week doing the math and scratching my head on the damage from all of the health care related judgments and bankruptcies in Central New York so far this year (here are the ugly numbers), our elected representatives in Washington were doing what they do best: wasting time, wasting money, and wasting their breath with outright lies and truth-stretching, all played out in front of a national media that's afraid to tell the public what's really going on.

Yes, they're messing around with shutting down the government, and in another couple of weeks potentially jeopardizing the good faith and credit of the country, by passing spending bills that would fund the government - except for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or more commonly, the ACA).  The first bill sent by the House to the Senate led to Canadian-American Ted Cruz (R-Texas) babbling on the floor of the Senate for 21 hours or so, only to be shut down procedurally by Harry Reid, who I think may be the least exciting thing ever to have come from the state of Nevada. After the 100 - 0 vote to move on (yes, Cruz voted to move on, just like everyone else did), the Senate proceeded to strip off the ACA defunding amendment and send what they call a clean bill back to the House, with a 54 -44 vote.

Saturday night, the House Republicans gathered in a booth in the corner in the dark in the back to chat, then came out and had some more votes, and passed another version of a funding bill that will be rejected by the Senate just like the last one was.

This version includes a delay in the ACA until 2015 (by a 232-192 vote), a repeal of the medical device tax that's part of the ridiculously complex ACA funding plan (248-174), and would allow businesses to choose whether to include contraceptive coverage in their no-cost-to-the-member preventative services.  This hugely controversial provision of the women's preventative services benefit package already comes with a religious exemption, but it's more complicated than just saying "I disagree on religious grounds" and so many (on both sides) see it as cumbersome.

The House will also continue funding for military-related programs, via another amendment to their bill, which is a nice tip of the hat to our soldiers who may otherwise receive an IOU from Congress -- while Congress would of course get a paycheck.  This one passed by a vote of 423 -0. I'm not sure exactly why this was not important enough to make the cut for the first bill?

Throughout all of their 40 some-odd votes to repeal the ACA and their defunding efforts, the Republicans insist that "The American People Have Spoken" (which whether written or spoken must include the emphasis of capital letters) - and don't want Obamacare.

Well, to an extent, the Republicans are correct: The American People Have Spoken on this subject several times already. The Affordable Care Act was debated and passed by both Houses of Congress, and signed by the President. It was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. And, Barack Obama was re-elected president last November. Weren't The American People Speaking then?

Not surprisingly, when the health care reform act is called Obamacare, which is how the Rs derisively refer to it, people have a more negative response to it than when it's referred to as the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because, not for nothing, The American People are remarkably gullible when it comes to sound bites and advertising.  Bacon ice cream, anyone? Pharmaceutical advertising?  How about that full page Cialis ad in the paper?  Because after all, nothing says "Good Morning!" like an erectile dysfunction conversation over a waffle and a cuppa.

The Republicans also fail to mention when they talk about The American People Having Spoken is that when surveys show that The American People don't like Obamacare, there's a pretty good percentage who don't like it because it doesn't go far enough. Yep -- depending on the survey, as many as a quarter of the people who don't like it don't like it because it's not good enough.

Finally, and more importantly, surveys of The American People Speaking also show that folks simply don't understand what the ACA does or includes.  For example, this recent poll by NBC news found that:
  • 34% admit they don't understand it very well
  • 35% understand it only somewhat
  • 30% understand it pretty well or very well
Folks, that is what the Republicans are counting on - that they can cloud the discussion with nonsense (death panels, for god's sake, people still think the ACA includes death panels!), cram some nonsense advertising down people's throats, and then throw some cutesy sound bites out there for the media to soft-pedal. It's beyond ridiculous.

What they will not mention, however, are survey results like this: in the same NBC poll, 73% of The Americans Who Have Spoken say they're already satisfied with their health coverage.  Which is cool -- because the ACA implementation began in 2010; so, many folks who are satisfied with the coverage they have now, are satisfied with benefits that might only be available because of the ACA.  Pretty sure the R's are not going to be tossing that statistic around much.

Yes, the American People Have Spoken.

Let's move on. Fund the government, and oh, when you have something meaningful put together to amend the ACA, I'm all ears.