Tuesday, April 8, 2014

GOPs 17.2 percent solution

   As of mid-March, the nation’s rate of uninsured had declined to 15.9 percent from 17.1 percent in December.

  We can’t know exactly where the rate stands now, but it’s lower. And, well, the nation’s Republican leaders will not have that.

   They will do everything they can — and credit them for having done everything they could — to get us back to the good old 17.1 percent days.

   Seventeen point one, of course, won’t be good enough. We can trust that the GOP partisans cannot — will not — rest until the nation’s uninsured rate is at least a percent of a percent higher than that.

    Yes, the 17.2 percent solution.

    Hear the call to arms: We must reverse the reversal of the uninsured rate by any means.

    We went to the Supreme Court appeal for that. We succeeded in part by relieving states of having to treat all working poor equally under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid.

    We shut down the government to stop something that had been the law of the land for four years. Admittedly, the only thing that accomplished was to highlight Sen. Ted Cruz’s penchant for children’s literature, but our cause was just.

   We must not, cannot, have government making it possible that more Americans have health coverage this year than last.

   Granted, we will feign outrage that in the process, some Americans had their policies canceled. (Privately, we will do the Snoopy dance in celebration.) Granted, because of the ACA, all of those people have an option to be covered still.

   We still like the good old 17.1 percent days better. Back then, when one had one’s insurance policy canceled, one’s options were squat. And we liked it.

   That’s why 17.2 percent is our goal, because less is more when it comes to the annoying needs of the uninsured.

   Don’t believe this? Set aside the desert mission to blow up the ACA. Look at the budget proposed in Congress by Rep. Paul Ryan.

   If his proposal were to become law, dramatic cuts would hit Medicaid and subsidies to help Americans buy health insurance — $2.7 billion over 10 years. Presto — fewer insured Americans tomorrow than today. Now, that’s sweet music. Sing it, Sen. Cruz.

   Now, you might think of Medicaid as just a gravy train for the undeserving. Apparently you have not studied the creature you curse. 

  The biggest chunk of dollars Medicaid disburses — nearly two thirds; look it up — isn’t for “welfare moms.” It’s for grannies and granddads in nursing homes.

   It’s tough love, you might say, but the pain someone else’s elders suffer would be worth it to get things back to what they once were, back in the 17.1 percent days.

   Speaking of health care, we’ve heard a lot from ACA’s sworn enemies about how it stole billions from Medicare. (Factcheck.org says there’s a big difference between “stealing” and saving billions of dollars. In fact, it says the savings built into the ACA will prolong the life span of the Medicare trust fund.)

   Well, if the foes of ACA are the protectors of Medicare they pretend to be, then they should be alarmed by the Ryan proposal, also trotted out in the 2012 election, to block-grant Medicare. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at the time said that the long-term restrictions built into that proposal would cost seniors an average of $6,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses.

   All of this represents a longing for a return to things as they were, when seniors didn’t depend so heavily on the government. Those were the same halcyon days when a national health insurance program for the working poor was a silly dream.

   Don’t rest, GOP, until we not only are back to the the 17.1 percent sweetness of yesteryear (2013), but a percent of a percent more.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.













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