A dozen Republicans in the Senate have said they’d rather shut down the government than provide funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the 2010 healthcare reform law better known as Obamacare. Meanwhile, more than 60 Republicans in the House have called on their leadership to cut off all federal support for the law in the coming fiscal year. And they complain when President Obama doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain?
The GOP’s irresponsible threats are just the latest in a long series of attempts to undermine the law and obstruct its implementation. Lacking the votes to repeal the law or any of its major provisions, they’ve waged a guerrilla war against it. Granted, the Obama administration hasn’t helped matters by falling behind on the rules needed to administer the law’s provisions. But at least it’s making a good-faith effort.
Not so for the law’s critics, who are eager to bring about the dire outcome that they’ve predicted. There’s no better example than the bill the House GOP leadership rushed through the chamber this month to delay the law’s requirement that virtually all adult Americans obtain health insurance in 2014. Without a mandate to compel healthy people to carry coverage, insurers would wind up with a sicker, riskier group of customers than they have now, driving up premiums and making insurance unaffordable to more families. That’s just the sort of disaster conservatives have said Obamacare would bring about, except they’d be the ones causing it.
Although the law is long and complex, its interlocking goals are the right ones: to improve the healthcare system by making insurance available to more people, encouraging prevention and wellness, slowing the rise in costs and promoting high-quality care. As with any major change, the Affordable Care Act is bound to yield some unintended and unwelcome consequences. We’ve seen a few already, as some companies have limited or reduced their workers’ hours to avoid having to offer them coverage.
What’s unusual this time is that Congress hasn’t tried to address the inevitable problems that have cropped up by amending the law. Instead, lawmakers have fought round after round over the GOP’s efforts to replace Obamacare with … nothing. The current gambit to shut down the government unless the law is defunded is so extreme that even some conservative Republican senators have backed away or even denounced it. Yet it’s the logical extension of the GOP’s all-or-nothing approach to the healthcare law. Rather than trying to make the law work, they’re doing everything they can to help it fail, even if some constituents are hurt in the process. That’s just wrong, no matter how you feel about Obamacare.