March 23, 2015 marks the five-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The federal government released new numbers regarding the health insurance law today, claiming that 16.4 million Americans have gained coverage through the program since it began five years ago. Since 2012, the percentage of Americans without coverage has dropped from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent.
Despite all of the backlash the program has received throughout its rough early history, these numbers suggest the program is working. It hasn’t been without its flaws — controversy surrounding the individual mandate, technical difficulties with HealthCare.gov and the occasional raised rate for healthy individuals all amount to an imperfect system. It would have been impossible, of course, to find an easy solution to health care reform in the U.S. Flaws aside, the ACA is still the most important reform this country has had in decades.
Arkansas senator and potential Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz believes those reforms could come to a halt as early as 2017. During a New Hampshire speaking engagement, Cruz claimed the next president will work to undo the health reform that the Obama administration signed into law. “I believe in January of 2017 a new Republican is going to enter the White House and in 2017 is going to sign legislation repealing every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said.
Cruz then framed his debate in the context of income inequality, arguing that Obamacare hurts small businesses and those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. He also, of course, supported the typical conservative argument that people in that position need to empower themselves rather than rely on handouts. It’s not quite a hypocritical argument, but it’s difficult to fully understand how Cruz can claim to be against big business and for the common people when he wants to strip them of a basic right like health care.
The White House’s report of historic health care coverage numbers starkly contrasts with the position held by Cruz and his fellow Republicans in Congress. Cruz and others are vehemently anti-Obamacare, vowing to repeal the law at all costs. The Obama administration simply has numbers, and those numbers suggest that many are buying into the system and benefiting from it. It's amazing that members of Congress are still actively trying to fight against it.
As hard as the GOP has tried, Obamacare is too big of a beast to stop before it’s truly given a chance to begin. The Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of the individual mandate’s constitutionality. As the White House statistics show, the ACA is also too effective to be stopped.
Even if there’s a Republican president and a GOP-controlled House and Senate in 2016, it will be difficult to revert back to the system we had in place before both parties worked toward a solution to better provide health care for the nation.
It’s a rhetoric commonly used in campaigns — talk down the guy in office right now and make broad claims about how the next presidency will be different. It’s a tactic even President Barack Obama knew how to use, but it appears as if he’ll still be entangled in the wars President George W. Bush started by the time his eight-year tenure is up. Changing things is not as easy as most people expect.
The GOP needs to realize that the ACA is here, working, and has already altered U.S. health care in an irrevocable manner.
Photo Credit: AP via The Washington Times