It’s January 2014, and for millions of Americans, it’s a new year where for the first time, they have health insurance coverage. Whether they were turned down for pre-existing conditions, didn’t have a job that offered benefits, or were too old to remain on their parents’ plans, millions of the nation’s uninsured have purchased policies off of state or federal exchanges and are finally treating medical issues that they had left unmonitored or unaddressed because out of pocket expenses were simply too high.
That’s not going to stop Republicans from trying to undermine the program anyway, just like every year.
The attacks are starting swiftly. To try to bolster their position, they are trying to grab onto any dismal piece of ACA related news they can. The latest scandal? A new report that expanding Medicaid increases emergency room visits. Unsurprisingly, the devil is in the detail: the “increase” that conservatives are crowing about is not even one additional trip to the E.R. per year.
If “increased expenses” isn’t a good enough reason to oppose the ACA, the party is more than ready to reach for other issues, and they’ll use their congressional clout to do it. Yes, what better way to ring in the New Year than another pledge from House Republicans to jump right on that most pressing issue — undermining Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for years, and now that insurance coverage that won’t bankrupt families and individuals has finally kicked in, it seems like it should be time to let go. But the Republican party simply cannot move on.
According to MSNBC, the House is already preparing for an “anti-ACA” bill to push as soon as they get back from winter break. “In a memo sent to Republican colleagues on Thursday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced that the chamber would take up a measure next week to ‘strengthen security requirements’ on the error-plagued HealthCare.gov website and ‘require prompt notification in the event of a breach involving personal information.’” The real purpose, however, is to continue to spread fear that the sites are unstable and discourage any new potential customers from enrolling.
“[I]f consumers can be convinced to steer clear of signing up for insurance, it’ll undermine the federal care system overall, which would satisfy the GOP’s unhinged ideological goals,” writes Steve Benan, and it’s a ploy that the GOP has refused to let go of, even now that insurance has actually kicked in for America’s uninsured.
As of the end of 2013, 6 million people signed up for insurance under the exchange if you add in those found to be eligible for Medicaid, a number that health care reform supporters cheer as it means more people with the ability to access affordable preventative care. Opponents of the ACA still insist on calling it a dismal failure, noting that it is 1 million shy of the administration’s 7 million enrollee goal at the end of March 2014. The more people benefit from the ACA, the harder it will be to repeal any of it, and the worse the reelection prospects will be of those who opposed it.
That’s still in the future, though. Currently, conservatives, especially the Tea Party wing, can’t seem to admit that the battle is over. In fact, some of them still believe this is fertile ground for a 2014 campaign push. Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-backed Tea Party political action group, has chosen three of what they feel are the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for reelection this cycle, and have picked the ACA as the campaign issue of choice with which to try to defeat them. According to the Daily Caller, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire will all be the target of attack ads touting their support of Obamacare and the insurance exchanges.
Whether AFP’s choice to exclusively target female senators was intentional or not, there’s no denying that the optics of it is awful, especially when you realize that how extensively both the Koch Brothers and AFP fund anti-choice organizations. For a party that says it wants to end the claims that the GOP is anti-woman, picking nothing but female lawmakers as the ones to defeat isn’t exactly a step towards rebranding.
But maybe that’s the point: from the continuing war on women to the endless attempts at dismantling health care reform, the GOP is entering 2014 exactly where they left 2013. The question is why they would believe their agenda would be any more popular this year than it was last year.
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