Several times I’ve heard reporters ask Republican congressmen a variation on this question: Do you want Obamacare to fail?
Each time, the interviewee avoids a direct answer. That’s understandable. Wishing for failure is unattractive and unsportsmanlike.
Wishing for Obamacare’s failure is tantamount to wishing misery on those who hoped to benefit from the law. It’s no wonder that no pol wants to be on the record with such an unappealing posture. No matter how thoughtful the explanation following a “yes” answer, the only sound bite that would likely go viral would be that initial affirmative response. Cue the Snidely Whiplash music and queue up the headlines: GOP Wants Obamacare to Fail.
Some advice for GOPers: Respond this way–“A better question is ‘Do I want good health care reform to succeed,’ and the answer is yes. Obamacare is not good reform.” If you get a followup? “Obamacare is failing on its own. My wish is for good health care reform no matter what it’s called and who sponsors it.”
In fact, that question offers Republicans an opportunity to look positive, not negative. They shouldn’t be afraid to say what the Affordable Care Act intended to get right and their agreement with those good intentions. For too long, liberals have cloaked their reforms in a “holier than thou” attitude that communicates implicitly and explicitly that Republicans simply don’t care. But the ACA gives Republicans the chance to agree on several key intentions of the ACA: for example, trying to divorce health insurance from employment is a laudable goal. But… doing it through one-size-fits-all programs that include so many pre-paid benefits as to make the policies themselves expensive isn’t the way to get there. Surely twentysomethings can pay for their own birth control if it means keeping premiums down for a cancer patient.
Finding ways to make coverage more accessible to those with pre-existing conditions is also a good objective. But… this Rube Goldberg ACA contraption just makes coverage more difficult and inaccessible for everyone. Surely there’s a way to help those with pre-existing conditions find policies without penalizing those who are “happy with their health plans.”
Whatever health care reform plans Republicans have offered, the GOP has not been seen as the party that cares enough about this issue to put political capital on the line for it. The ACA’s problems give them an opportunity to showcase their good intentions by agreeing with ACA’s good intentions. And then to discuss what workable alternatives would achieve the same worthy goals.
The ACA’s failures also give Republicans an opportunity to point out something that Democrats and the media are good at obfuscating–health care is expensive, no matter what you do. We can work at reforms that try to make it more accessible and less bureaucratic, with more transparent pricing. But, as I’ve often stated, it’s never going to be free. Somehow we all end up paying for it either in higher premiums or taxes or fewer benefits and choices.
So, no, Republicans, you don’t want health care reform to fail. But you do want the ACA’s problems to be made clear before it fails the American people miserably.