Health care editorial: Trump's unproductive Obamacare vengeance

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted5/6/2017 2:00 PM
  • President Donald Trump talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan in the White House Rose Garden after the GOP pushed a health care bill through the House.

    President Donald Trump talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan in the White House Rose Garden after the GOP pushed a health care bill through the House. Associated Press

In explaining why he cast one of the tide-turning votes to repeal so-called Obamacare, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano said, "Doing nothing was not an option."

On that score, we find a thin stretch of common ground. The Affordable Care Act has serious flaws that must be addressed.

Problem is, doing something is quite a large, sprawling blanket. It covers disastrous approaches as well as helpful ones. We don't agree that doing anything is better than doing nothing.

We have from the beginning had significant concerns about elements of President Barack Obama's health care legislation and we likewise have significant concerns about President Donald Trump's.

First and foremost, the elimination of the mandate that everyone must buy health insurance essentially dismantles the financial underpinning of the program. As with every other insurance program -- for auto, life, home, whatever -- the ACA is built around the notion that those who don't recoup their premiums subsidize those who exceed them. This is the concept that protects everyone and it's not restricted to health insurance. It's that way with all insurance.

The measure that now heads to the Senate may reduce costs for those without existing conditions but it could prohibitively increase costs who those with them -- particularly most people at the health care vulnerable ages of 50 to 65. It threatens to make those costs so expensive as to become unpayable.

In other words, the legislation approved by a party-line vote of the House Thursday threatens to make people effectively uninsurable just when they need insurance the most.

But let us stress: Obamacare has serious problems, too. We agree with the assessment that without corrective measures, it is unsustainable.

The biggest problem here is that our politics have become unworkable, too. The Great Divide seems to make consensus solutions all but unattainable.

Did Trump win? Did Trump lose? Does this set Democrats up for a comeback in 2018? What party has the winning hand? These are the questions being asked. Meanwhile, real people suffer with real problems.

The irony of this process is that proponents of Thursday's legislation did everything they had criticized in the passage of the original ACA:

• It was approved without a single opposition-party vote.

• It was rushed through via arm twisting, threats and political deals.

• House members voted on the legislation without knowing exactly what was in it.

In the end, Trump's vow that "everyone will have great insurance" is apt to ring as hollow as Obama's vow that "you can keep your doctor."

The fault here lies all around. Republicans for politicizing it. But Democrats for politicizing it, too.

Such a shame that Republicans who had been victims of having a health care bill shoved down their throats in 2010 felt that the answer is to shove one down the Democrats' throats now. And that Democrats who decried Republican intransigence in the Obama years choose now to respond to Trump with intransigence.

In the end, it is the American people who are victims of that style of politics. Leadership isn't creating laws and issuing edicts. And it's not reflexively resisting them either, Leadership is building consensus, bringing people together to solve problems. It is, well, leading.

Not leading a party. Leading a nation. Where is that leadership in Washington?

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