SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 30, 2013

Column: Can we get real about repealing Obamacare?

By Barbara Shelly
The Kansas City Star

---- — OK, class, let’s talk about repealing Obamacare. Some of us are having a little trouble envisioning what that would look like, but I know all you smart Republicans have some great ideas. So, let’s get started.

Kevin Yoder, from Overland Park, Kan., you’ve voted, like, 39 times to repeal Obamacare. Tell us what you’ll say to those senior citizens who will have to start paying more for prescription drugs if you succeed. The Affordable Care Act, as you know, is closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage, and 6 million seniors are already benefiting.

Congressman Yoder? What’s that, he’s left the room? Something about phoning his grandma, you say.

Well, all right then, let’s move on.

Vicky Hartzler, from Harrisonville, Mo., you’re a big Obamacare critic. What will you say to the millions of people with pre-existing conditions who will lose their chance at affordable health insurance once the repeal happens? And how about the families of those 17.6 million children with pre-existing conditions already benefiting because of the law? Surely, you’re not going to cast them into the cold, but insurers won’t handle high-risk patients unless they’re assured of a broad base of healthy people to help absorb the losses.

Say what? Congresswoman Hartzler has stepped out also? I see.

Perhaps we’re being too specific. How about some of you Republicans just generally tell us your ideas for making health care affordable and accessible to all Americans, not just the ones who are healthy and have jobs with benefits. We’d also welcome your ideas for slowing the escalation of medical costs.

Anyone?

I see a hand up. Sen. Roy Blunt from Missouri. Very good.

Blunt: “As you know, I’ve been talking for years about commonsense solutions like medical liability reform and selling insurance across state lines.”

OK, reducing liability for doctors while decreasing the risk of medical errors is a good idea, and the Affordable Care Act has provisions for doing those things. Selling insurance across state lines might lower premiums for healthy people, but it would make policies for sick people very expensive. That’s why they call it a race to the bottom. Any other ideas?

Blunt: “Nope. That’s about it. No 906-page bill for me. My health care plan fits on the back of my hand.”

Really? But surely some of you Republicans have more of a health care plan than just tort reform and selling insurance across state lines.

Voice from back of room: “Of course, we have a plan! What do we look like, obstructionists?”

OK, great. What’s the plan?

Everyone chimes in at once. “Repeal Obamacare! That’s the plan. Defund it in the budget. Refuse to help constituents figure out the insurance exchanges. Run a campaign telling young adults not to buy insurance. Make up scary stories about price hikes. Urge states not to expand Medicaid eligibility. Shut down the government if we have to. Whatever it takes.”

Well, now we’re getting somewhere. Repealing Obamacare is the plan. The only plan. But then what will you do when families lose everything when somebody gets sick and can’t hold down a job? What do you say to people who have been canceled by their insurers because they’ve reached lifetime limits? How do you rationalize having the most expensive health care system in the developed world and some of the poorest results?

A suntanned guy in the front row stands up. “House Speaker John Boehner here. When the bad stuff happens, we blame Obama. That’s been the plan all along.”

With that, the class rises for a round of high-fives and heads for the exits.

Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.