Zucker: Republicans’ health care punching bags
October 2, 2013
"Un-American" is a word too often used casually by politicos to brand adversaries. Yet a series of votes taken by a bunch of right-wing ideologues in Congress, including Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz and our Congressman Tom McClintock, carries an anti-American strain — literally — because they inflict pain and hardship on American citizens. These include last fall's vote to withhold aid from Hurricane Sandy victims; last month's vote to pull food off the table for millions of poor and struggling citizens that the Congressional Budget Office projected would extract four million from the program; and now the coup de grace: this small minority in Congress, having failed to flout the will of the American people when the Affordable Care Act was enacted 3 1/2 years ago, has forced the federal government to shut down because they couldn't defund or delay implementing the health care law.
Worse than their votes against American citizens is the sheer giddiness Republicans displayed after attaching the defunding provision to a bill to keep the government operating, euphorically cheering their effort to take the ACA hostage, an effort which would keep legally sanctioned health care benefits from millions. It would concomitantly inflict economic hardship on hordes of ordinary citizens — veterans, seniors, students, 800,000 civil servants, "punching bags" as President Obama aptly calls them — who are the shutdown's innocent victims. The GOP takes more pleasure from hurting people than from helping them. It's shameful.
Little wonder that the public's been confused about what the new law is and is not, since misinformation during the run up to the government shutdown has been pouring from right-wing partisans and their Fox News cheerleaders. Contrary to what Congressman McClintock has said, there's no "federal health czar (that) will mandate every aspect of … coverage that all health care policies must provide." There are no "death panels" that you often hear spouted from Fox and other radicals. It's no government takeover. The new marketplace's plans are offered by private companies; all cover a core set of "essential health benefits."
Here are a few valuable Obamacare provisions that Republicans would hold hostage:
• Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions;
• Health insurance companies cannot arbitrarily cancel your insurance just because you get sick;
• Provides free preventative care;
• Ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on covering essential health benefits;
• Coverage guarantees the right to appeal;
• Coverage for preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies;
• Insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on your health care instead of administrative, overhead and marketing costs.
• Insurance companies cannot cancel you simply because you made an honest mistake or left out information that has little bearing on your health.
"Obamacare was a major issue in the last presidential campaign … The people spoke … and they re-elected the president … Elections have consequences; … a significant majority … of the American people supported the President of the US and renewed his stewardship of this country… All of us should respect the outcome of elections, which reflects the will of the people." (Not my words; the attribution belongs to Obama's 2008 opponent John McCain.) Additionally, the law was declared constitutional by a conservative Supreme Court.
Congressional representatives took an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the United States Constitution and to do it without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.
The effort by Cruz and scores of Tea Party types in Congress to shut down the government and their ongoing threat to default on paying bills already authorized by Congress –- an event which would invite worldwide catastrophic consequences — is an anti-American exercise that would destroy our standing and credibility as a people. It would evade true faith and allegiance to the Constitution.
Here's some presidential advice for McClintock and others who would consider not raising the debt ceiling later this month.
First, "This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar"; and second, "The full consequences of even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result." The words are Ronald Reagan's, delivered in 1986 and 1983.
— Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities. The views expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent those of Regal.