BERNARD COLUMN: Republicans- on the wrong side again in new Congress

Published 11:30 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

The GOP has taken over the House, although by a much smaller than the projected majority. In rural Georgia, 22% of Georgians 18-64 are uninsured, having no healthcare coverage. So, what can we expect from them regarding healthcare, a major issue for this county? From their own policy statements — nothing, as I point out below. 

The French health care system, widely agreed to be the best in the world, is basically universal Medicare, with supplemental insurance for dental, vision, and so forth. The French system costs less than half per capita ($5,564) what ours does ($11,945). Plus, the French people are relatively happy with their healthcare system whereas we are not. 

But in our country, past Congressional Democratic leadership just didn’t have the power that lobbyists and their money have had over conservative Democrats/independents in key positions in order to unilaterally pass something similar to the French system. 

And with the change in House, things will only get worse. The Republican party is continuing to oppose real healthcare reform. Long-term, it will hurt the GOP politically. But short-term they are dug in. This, despite the fact that before he ever ran for office, Donald Trump was a Medicare for All supporter. 

When Obama proposed health care reform in 2008, I predicted in my columns that it would pass Congress but be inadequate due to GOP opposition. I was correct. 

The Democrats figured out they would ultimately get little or no GOP support. So, they passed something (the ACA, Obamacare), then claimed victory, and accurately blamed Republicans for their inaction. The truth is that single payer would have been much better solution, covering everyone. But substantial GOP support would have been required to pass it, as was true when Medicare was passed in the 60s. So, Medicare for All was not even considered much less proposed by Obama. 

Let’s assume the obvious: A single-payer healthcare system will never be seriously considered by what is currently a center-right Senate (with Republicans and conservative Democrats/independents) and a GOP controlled House. The “public insurance option,” which has its own “cherry-picking” faults, has also failed for the same reason. 

Since Obamacare was passed over a decade ago, 35 million more people have gotten insurance. But many are still underinsured, with one survey estimating 34% of working age adults have inadequate insurance.

The CDC finds that 30 million Americans (11%) have no coverage at all and are totally uninsured. Including many people those in 12 (soon to be 11) GOP controlled states that decided not to expand Medicaid even though the Feds pay for 90% of the cost. Georgia is the third worst state in the US regarding the uninsured. 

And the for-profit insurance companies can be expected to continue to find loopholes to lower their risk through eliminating sicker patients and overcharging the government via Medicare Advantage. Of course, that’s how they make money and pay those 7 figure salaries to their CEOs. 

Let’s go back to the GOP, which has proposed no real reforms in many decades. By now, American voters should have realized that Republicans do not want real change.  

For example, here’s what the newly released GOP “Commitment to America” plan states on healthcare:

“Achieve Longer, Healthier Lives for Americans 

*Personalize care to provide affordable options and better quality, delivered by trusted doctors

*Lower prices through transparency, choice, and competition, invest in lifesaving cures, and improve access to telemedicine.” 

In other words, the GOP provides incomprehensible gobbledygook. In reality, they advocate doing nothing. 

The American public knows down deep that major healthcare reform is needed. And that the Democrats are the only party with any viable ideas. Like it or not, healthcare reform (including cost control) is good for the country. And the GOP must eventually endorse a greater role for government in health insurance. Otherwise, healthcare will continue to be used as a stick against them in elections, just like the Republicans use culture war values issues like “religious liberty” against the Democrats. 

The bottom line is that by opposing true reform now, the Republican Party loses more broadly over the long term. The only question is when will the Democrats refine their messaging to adequately explain and push this vital issue in upcoming 2024 elections.