Recently, a CNN/ORC International poll showed that the American public was slowly but surely coming around to supporting a more progressive approach to health reform. Specifically, only 35% of those surveyed now believe the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is too liberal. Three years ago, that figure was 43%. That is a dramatic drop in those opposing the law on the conservative end, although the mass media have not widely reported this fact.
The radical right wing is doubling down on its misinformation strategy.
The Koch Brothers, billionaire owners of several large corporations (mostly energy) and the original money source behind the Tea Party, have been funding a reactionary group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP has announced that it will be spending an additional $1 million to discredit the ACA via ads, just in time to elect more right-wing radicals in 2014.
The Koch brothers and AFP have been at this for some time. They have tried to mislead the public into thinking that the ACA is "socialism" by presenting false nightmare scenarios, such as restricting choice of physicians, as accepted facts.
Many Red State governors and congressmen are guilty of the same offense. My own Congressman, a physician who does not believe in evolution, has called Obama a "Marxist" partially due to the ACA.
Misleading the public is easier than one may think. The law is incredibly complex, and even those of us involved with health reform do not understand the exact impact of all of its components. So unethical groups like the AFP have fertile grounds to work.
However, some of the fault lies directly at the feet of the president.
His administration has done an absolutely abysmal job of educating the taxpayer, and his own party, about what effect the law will have on the public. Many Democratic elected officials, especially in Red or "Purple" states, seem to freeze when asked about it. Even the Administration seems to be running away, given the delay until 2015 for the employer mandate.
In a broader sense, the president must accept some of the blame for going against his own beliefs. Prior to his run for president, he advocated for single-payer healthcare (Medicare for all).
The president switched horses and deserted single payer for "Obamacare," which is really "Romneycare," which is really "Dolecare," developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The ACA is the exact opposite of socialism. It perpetuates the existing labyrinth of private insurance plans offered by a multitude of companies and varying by locality. This is why a physician here has four times the billing expense of a physician in Canada. Furthermore, insurance plans in the U.S. have run about 30% for administrative and marketing expense, versus only 3% for Medicare. A report released last week by a University of Massachusetts economist found tremendous savings would be achieved, $592 billion a year, if Medicare for All were implemented.
Conservative extremists like the Kochs will never give up. Their front organizations will continue to distribute misleading and downright wrong information. In Red states, this may help some of the more radical right-wing politicians. For example, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a traditional conservative, is retiring quite possibly because he is afraid of being "primaried" from the right by Tea Party-supported Congressmen.
The real question becomes: "Where do we go from here"?
First, Red states need to accept the fact that what they call Obamacare is here to stay. There will not be a Republican House and Senate with a large enough majority to overturn a presidential veto, no matter how well the GOP does in 2014. Period.
So take the federal money and expand Medicaid to cover the many millions who are uncovered and need it. Red state governors, look at the example of brave conservative governors like Brewer in Arizona, and get the fortitude to push it through. Governor Deal, wake up.
Second, the GOP needs to look at the facts, and long-term political trends, and advocate for single-payer. The GOP is supposed to be the party that is concerned with out-of-control spending. Well, the only way to slow U.S. health care expenditures (public and private) is through Medicare for All. Otherwise, private insurance companies and providers will simply continue to game the system to maximize their revenues.
The GOP could take a major step toward the center and away from the constant rightward drift that is causing the party to lose presidential elections. Combined with support for reasonable immigration reform, the GOP can yet be relevant in national elections.
Jack Bernard, a retired senior executive for several national health care corporations, is also the former Director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia and former chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party; Bernard_Jack@hotmail.com.