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Words from Winterbilt

The Supreme Court said what?

Shannon Bohrer

(9/2015) Recently the Supreme Court decided a case and issued a ruling that made the news, then became the news and then divided the country. Of course we all know the country was divided before, so maybe the decision is a justification for our continued division. Maybe, or do we really disagree and are we really that different?

The decision I am referring to confirmed the "Affordable Health Care Law", or as many say; "Obamacare." Early comments about the decision included; "I disagree with their decision. I believe Obamacare's bad for the county, bad for Americans" by Senator Marco Rubio. Another one in the press; "The objective remains the same. We've got to repeal a law that the American people don't like, and we've got to replace it" by Representative Bill Flores from Texas. It would be helpful if those that tell us how bad it is for the country, tell us why and what would replace it. Maybe it is that bad, but just saying it’s bad – does not make it so. Tell us why.

The comments were not unexpected since the Republicans have voted to repeal the affordable care act over 50 times. Right, wrong or just indifferent, the Republicans have been against the affordable care act since its inception and it seems they can’t change directions. I do find their intractable position a little puzzling since in the past the Republicans introduced legislation for universal health care. It has been reported that the idea for their legislation was created and built by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. And the concept for universal health care actually goes back to Teddy Roosevelt. That was part of his Bull Moose Party platform, so it is not a new idea.

In 1989, that’s right; 1989, the Heritage Foundation put forth a proposal for universal health care. The proposal outlined problems within the medical industry such as cost and contained some specific suggestions. One suggestion was to tax the health care insurance payments that employees receive. Currently, any health care benefits that individuals receive from employment are not taxable. Later in the publication some tax credits were also suggested. Another key proposal was a mandate for all households to obtain health insurance. Also the government would help those who cannot afford protection.

Does this sound familiar?

Since several of the components of the Heritage Foundations proposal are similar to the "Affordable Health Care Law" one can see why similarities are drawn. Following the Heritage Foundations suggestions for universal health care, the Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. On November 20, 1993 the Consumer Choice Health Security Act (SB 1743) was introduced, sponsored by a Republican and cosponsored by 24 Republicans. The bill required employers to withhold insurance monies from wages, to be applied to the employee’s medical insurer. Then on November 23, 1993 the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act (SB 1770) was introduced and it was also sponsored and supported by Republicans. The bill required every citizen to be covered under a health plan of January 1, 2005.

As already stated, some politicians have commented that the blue print for the "Affordable Health Care Law" was created and built by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. And while the origins of the ‘Affordable Health Care Law" are often attributed to the Heritage Foundation, there are also individuals that say the proposal by the Heritage Foundation is different.

The Heritage Foundation recommendations included:

  • State-based exchanges that would exist where residents may compare and purchase private insurance policies that meet minimum levels of coverage. The objective of these exchanges is to drive down premium costs by increasing competition, and provide policies with similar levels of coverage for ease of comparison.
  • A guarantee issue, meaning consumers cannot be denied coverage due to pre-existing health conditions.
  • Subsidies for lower-income households. The proposal included subsidies for lower income individuals, to ensure affordability.
  • Mandatory participation in a heath care program.

The "Affordable Health Care Law" includes:

  • Required participation, meaning everyone must have health insurance.
  • State based exchanges, where individuals can shop and purchase health insurance. The objective of these exchanges is to drive down premium costs by increasing competition in the free markets.
  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
  • The government provides subsidies for lower income individuals, with subsidy percentage dependent upon the level of income.

While I have only listed some major points, the differences are almost as striking as the similarities. It is no wonder so many are confused. Of course on the positive side we are not really that different in our perspectives. It appears that both sides want the same thing, at least they did in some point in time.

In Maryland we had a Republican Governor that proposed gambling at the race tracks to help the racing industry. The proposal was soundly defeated by the Democrats. When the governors’ officer later turned democratic, the idea of gambling then looked good and it passed. Of course they left out the race tracks! If, either the Consumer Choice Health Security Act (SB 1743), or the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act (SB 1770) (both introduced by the Republicans in 1993), passed, would the Democrats would have opposed them? Sometimes acceptance of a proposal is dependent upon who proposes it, if that makes sense - and it doesn’t.

The politicians are elected to run the country for everyone, not just their party. You would think that since both parties have proposed almost identical solutions for universal health care, they would be able to compromise. Being against something that resembles what you initially created and proposed, is like driving real fast when your lost, because you don’t want to be late. If the "Affordable Health Care Law" is ever repealed, I am sure it will be replaced with the same thing, but we will be told it is different.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer