In our current political climate, there’s one word that dominates nearly every conversation: gridlock. It’s easy to judge the ability of a party to lead by the way it addresses the issues, and the reasons it chooses to embrace or reject different points of view. Over the last four years, the Republican Party has increasingly drifted further and further into political extremism and its leaders have done nothing but facilitate demagogues. There is perhaps no better example of this than in the ongoing implementation of healthcare reform.
We are now three years into the landmark Affordable Care Act, and already, many states are expecting massive reductions in healthcare costs when the incremental implementation of the law is completed in 2015. New Yorkers can expect a 50 percent reduction in their premiums over the next two years; Californians could see even more. Insurance companies can no longer deny you for pre-existing conditions, nor can they place caps on how much they will cover in a year or in a lifetime. Thanks to the law’s provision allowing students under the age of 26 to remain on their parents plan, more than 3.1 million young adults can now put into college the money they otherwise would’ve spent on health insurance. Despite this, the opponents of healthcare reform are as militant as ever, and it seems they’re fighting to delay the inevitable.
The Republican House recently voted for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Like the first 39 times, it did nothing but shun the students, immigrants, and working families, whose legislation was set aside to tackle the complex problem of a resolved issue. In a time when millions of Americans are looking for work in a still recovering economy, Speaker Boehner continues to allow unavailing legislation to consume the time of an organ of government. Even more disturbing are the calls to shut down the federal government by radical Republicans. Compromise and reasonable discourse are made equivalent to treason. In the words of former representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), “I’m sorry, but leadership tells us we can’t play.”
This fight isn’t one being waged exclusively on Capitol Hill, though. In states across the union, particularly where the tea party has picked up considerable momentum, opponents of healthcare reform look to impede the laws implementation. In states like Oklahoma, Alabama, and South Carolina, state leaders have refused to comply with and, in some cases, sought to nullify federal law. Many states have filed federal lawsuits challenging individual provisions of the law, attempting to do in the judicial system what their federal counterparts cannot do in the legislature. While this opposition would seem to indicate that the law would harm their states, the situation is in fact the exact opposite.
A recent Rand Corporation study found that those fourteen state governments will collectively spend one billion dollars more in uncompensated care in 2016 than if they would’ve had they expanded Medicaid. In addition, these states would forgo about 8.4 billion dollars in federal aid and would leave 3.6 million people uninsured. Indeed the very states most opposed to healthcare reform are actually the ones that stand to benefit the most, with those states possessing a far greater percentage of uninsured residents.
The question this continued opposition seems to raise is why has a policy disagreement, morphed into a perpetual axe to grind on the floor of legislatures and at dinner tables across America. Republicans fired up their base in 2010, and swept into the House. Then what happened? The answer may just lie in the way Republicans carried their brand from the way they would make America better to the way President Obama is making it worse. The drive to rally conservatives has backfired. Now, any attempt to work with the administration draws the ire of their base, who have been convinced that the president is destroying America. Because of this, they are unable to make the ideological shifts needed to appeal to the growing number of Latino and youth voters, and are beholden to an increasingly belligerent wing of their party.
There is a grand observation that can be drawn from all of this. The Republican Party has moved so far right that they’ve come to view a law that they themselves originally wrote as a Clinton-era compromise bill as a far left, socialist conspiracy. Unfortunately for them, Americans won’t stand with them or their topsy-turvy ideological timeline. Americans will come home,and they’ll watch Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the television, or listen to Ann Coulter on the radio. A day will come when we all ask ourselves, “What is wrong with America’s right?”