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In 2008 Brack Obama was elected president with almost 53% of the popular vote in an election with such a huge turnout (56.8%) that he won with “the most votes for a presidential candidate in American history.” He ran promising to fix our broken health care system.

In the fall of 2010 Republicans recaptured the House of representatives in an election in which 42% of the population turned out. The percentage of Americans voting for Republicans was, obviously, south of that 42%. Not much of a mandate for Republicans really.  

The GOP spent the last two years fighting health care reform tooth and nail, conducting a full-court press propaganda blitz, misrepresenting it in countless ways, and often lying about it outright – remember death panels? In spite of the media noise they generated, just recently, when Americans were polled about their perceptions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and were offered a full range of options so that those who disapprove of it were allowed to specify whether they do so because it doesn’t go far enough or because it does too much, only around 26% wanted it repealed.

Nevertheless, today the GOP-controlled House will vote to repeal the ACA. The repeal vote will go nowhere; it is a largely symbolic gesture meant to generate even more media smoke, but it will no doubt be followed by numerous efforts to chip away and nullify the essence of the ACA or defund it. The propaganda will continue. The only sure thing is that any changes that the GOP will attempt to enact will benefit the bottom line of their clients in the insurance industry in one way or another.

Eager to get in on the show, Missouri lawmakers yesterday held hearings on SR 27, a non-binding resolution calling on Attorney General Koster to join a frivolous lawsuit filed against the ACA by the Attorneys General of several other states. In spite of the 60 or so citizens who traveled to the capitol to testify in favor of the ACA, the nonbinding resolution passed out of the the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee by a 5-2 vote. Yay, Missouri. Once again our Republican-controlled legislature plays to the peanut gallery.  

As I contemplate this madness, I can’t help thinking about a woman I met at a a large, rambunctuous Tea Party meeting with one of Claire McCaskill’s staffers. The meeting had been organized by officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) to discuss the then incipient health care reform. She was one of the less shrill attendees, most of whom were shouting, hooting and waving their Gadsden flags or sporting overtly racialized, comic Obama posters throughout much of the meeting.

This woman carried a poster thanking her insurance company for the survival of her twin daughters who were also in attendance. She was friendly and open and when I complimented her on her daughters’ charming, matching outfits, she told me their story. They had survived serious birth complications because of excellent medical care made possible by the great insurance that her husband’s employer provided. She was attending the meeting because she feared that the heath care reform would destroy her access to that insurance. I wonder today if she is feeling all smug and full of achievement pleased when she reads about the efforts of our elected representatives to undo the ACA that she so vociferously opposed in the name of her “wonderful” insurance.  

I also thought of her late last fall as I went through the annual process of reconfirming the choice of insurance plan that my husband’s employer provides for us. When we came to St. Louis in 2002, we found that the level of insurance that we had come to take for granted was not on offer, although the plans were still more or less adequate. Over the past few years, though, that level of adequacy has started to erode. Co-pays on all plans have risen drastically, at one point vision coverage was withdrawn and then reinstated, and the amount that the insurance company will actually pay for ostensibly fully covered procedures has dwindled so that I am left completing payment (to “in-network” doctors, no less). This is not an isolated phenomenon; I have learned from former colleagues that my old employer is also cutting health benefits back in the same way.

Nor is this niggling retrenchment leading to efficient, economical care. To give you just one example, in the past, I have opted for physical therapy in place of expensive testing and surgery for back and other joint problems. I have found it to be an excellent alternative which is actually also much less costly than other approaches. This year when, after some minor surgery, my doctor recommended a fairly intense course of physical therapy, I had to refuse it because the hefty co-pays that had been newly instituted would have been prohibitive given the number of sessions the therapist thought I needed. In the past, my insurance paid in full for up to ten weeks of physical therapy. As a consequence of this change, meant to discourage frills and cut costs for my husband’s employer I am sure, I will not be requesting physical therapy as my first line of attack in the future – regardless of the fact that it would actually cost the insurance company less than other fully covered procedures.

I wonder how long my Tea Party mother and her family will enjoy the excellent insurance coverage that inspired her loyalty? Because the types of changes that I have experienced are on the way for most of us and will probably become more extreme if health care costs continue their vertiginous trajectory. And in spite of what some claim, they were well underway long before “Obamacare” was even thought of. The number of uninsured increased by 2.5 million in 2009. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that former Post-Dispatch employees who had taken early retirement buyouts were having the health care benefits they had been promised yanked away; such stories are becoming less and less uncommon (see, for instance, here and here).

This escalating erosion of our access to good health care is what we face if the GOP manages to return us to the former status quo, or, worse, amend the ACA to feed what Matthew Iglesias argues is already heavily subsidized “free market health care.” And yet the show goes on. Pragmatic responses to our problems are met with ideological catch-phrases and seriously misapplied labels – “socialistic” comes to mind. I am afraid that I think that Ezra Klein is perhaps somewhat naive when, speaking of the repeal effort, he says*:

I hope this is just a temporary partisan reaction to the specter of a major victory for President Obama and not a view into what the GOP does when faced with a problem where the solutio
ns don’t neatly fit their worldview.

These fools are long past the simple tantrums they threw when they lost their big showdown with the socialistic leftists who foisted this centrist, Republican-lite health care reform on us.

*Sentence ending revised somewhat for clarity.