Temple Chima UbochiWednesday, August 9, 2017
Bonn, Germany


Continued from Part 1

It's incomprehensible that we have a President of the United States who wants to sabotage health care in America, make life more difficult for millions of people (Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN)

One of the failures was the president never laid out a plan or his core principles and never sold them to the American people. Outsourced the whole issue to Congress (Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa)

The Affordable Care Act has always been about something bigger than politics. It's about the character of our country.... It's about the dreams protected, and the untold misery and ruin prevented (President Barack Obama said after the senate failed to repeal and replace Obamacare)

This is clearly a disappointing moment. I regret that our efforts were simply not enough this time. Now, I imagine many of our colleagues on the other side are celebrating. Probably pretty happy about all this. But the American people are hurting, and they need relief. It's time to move on (Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, said after the defeat of the bill)

In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal-yeah, we'll do replace, replace-I started laughing, because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it (John Boehner, former speaker of the House of Reps)

o tell you what it means to have no health insurance in America! Before Obamacare, that gave health insurance coverage to about 20 million Americans, was signed into law in 2010, people who had serious health challenges, but no health insurance, resorted to crude measures to treat themselves, because, they can't afford seeing a doctor. I saw or heard what people without health insurance, prior to 2010, went through. I've told this story before, about a man I saw, in America, who had a serious accident, but resorted to taking only paracetamol, aspirin etc, which one can buy in America, over the counter, without doctor's prescription, as he couldn't afford to see any doctor, because he had no health insurance. Obamacare then came and changed all that for about 20 million people. But, more work has to be done, as about 30 million more Americans still remain un-insured till today. That what the Republican lawmakers should work on, rather than trying to divest those already covered, of their health insurance.

President Trump and the Republican lawmakers in Washington D.C. are reeling from their failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. For seven years, they have been promising to kill Obamacare, and now they had the opportunity, but have failed woefully. The Republican lawmakers, during their campaigns, repeated this sentence to voters: "Elect me, and give us a Republican in the White House, and we can finally get rid of this law (Obamacare)". Now, they had almost everything they asked for, but still didn't deliver. The AP also pointed out that the resounding Senate crash of the seven-year Republican drive to scrap the Obama health care law incited GOP finger-pointing, but left the party with wounded leaders and no evident pathway forward on an issue that won't go away.

President Trump thought that ruling would be as easy as opening casinos and hotels, on water fronts, and then declaring bankruptcy after two years, pocketing the loan and share holders' dividends, and from there, becoming a billionaire. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that just 33 percent of voters approve of his job performance, the lowest rating he has had in that survey since being sworn into office, and 7 percentage points lower than it was a month earlier.

There are so many important things the president and the Republican controlled congress should concentrate on. Rather than wasting precious time looking further for ways to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law, that will never happen, let them revamp the loophole-choked tax code and lower rates for corporations and individuals, as they promised. A point reiterated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when he said in an interview on Friday, August 4: "We've pivoted to tax reform and I think we've got to stay on that". The AP also reminded the lawmakers returning from recess, after Labor Day, about a pile of bills they must approve. They'll also face another stack of work they've promised to tackle - those that the GOP voters elected them to achieve.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, majority of Americans said they want Congress to move on from healthcare reform, after efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare failed. When asked what they think Congress should do next, most Americans picked other priorities such as tax reform, foreign relations and infrastructure. Gene Anderson, 81, a Trump voter living in a retirement community in Zionsville, Indiana, said the president should "refocus on some stability in his administration and some demonstration of being able to work together with Democrats in Congress." He added: "I don't understand why they had to push for healthcare reform before tax reform. They ought to sit down and come up with a viable legislative, doable tax reform."

I knew right from the start that the Republicans will never repeal and replace Obamacare; but my premonition was reinforced when the former House Speaker, John Boehner (R-Ohio), said that Republicans will "never" repeal and replace Obamacare. He made the comment twice before the senate voting.

In February, the ex-speaker said that the GOP lawmakers were too optimistic in their talk of quickly repealing and then replacing Obamacare. In his words: "They'll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn't have called it repeal and replace because that's not what's going to happen. They're basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it". And, in an address, which Boehner delivered, during a pharmaceutical industry conference, in Las Vegas, on Friday, July 21, ahead of the Senate's latest attempt to kill the health care law, he said:

"Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they've not passed this bill. Now, they're never, they're not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It's been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it. Governors have gotten accustomed to this Medicaid expansion, and so trying to pull it back is really not going to work."

During the conference, the former Ohio lawmaker echoed the frustrations of many Republicans on Capitol Hill, as he warned that the GOP's infighting, despite having control of Congress and the White House, could have dire political consequences for the party. In Boehner's words: "If Republicans fail to pass legislation on health care, taxes and infrastructure, they're going to get annihilated in next year's midterm elections".

On Trump: Boehner, according to WP, described him as a "friend of mine. We've played a lot of golf together over the years. He was a donor of mine." But, he said he never expected Trump to win the presidency, and has been discouraged by how he has handled parts of the job. Hear him: "I never really saw him as president. You all know what I mean." Boehner urged Trump to "quit tweeting" and avoid spats with media personalities.

For now, at least, the health-care fight in the US is over; and Americans want to move on, just as Reuters wrote that a majority of Americans are ready to move on from healthcare reform at this point after the U.S. Senate's effort to dismantle Obamacare failed. Nearly two-thirds of the country wants to either keep or modify the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and a majority of Americans want Congress to turn its attention to other priorities, the survey found. The July 28-29 Reuters/Ipsos poll of more than 1,130 Americans, conducted after the Republican-led effort collapsed in the Senate, found that 64 percent said they wanted to keep Obamacare, either "entirely as is" or after fixing "problem areas." That is up from 54 percent in January.

The Republican lawmakers must have been living in a fool's paradise to think they can kill Obamacare that has even more poll numbers than Trump, and is more popular than him. Not only that, the GOP lawmakers failed to read the handwritings on the wall, because the health insurance industry opposed the provision. Also, according to the AP, Ten governors - five Republicans and five Democrats - asked the Senate to drop the idea, warning it is "expected to accelerate health plans leaving the individual market, increase premiums, and result in fewer Americans having access to coverage." The governors now want Congress to start over and try to come up with a bipartisan approach.

The Republican governors who signed the letter, according to CBS News, are:

  • Brian Sandoval of Nevada

  • Charles Baker of Massachusetts

  • John Kasich of Ohio

  • Larry Hogan of Maryland

  • Phil Scott of Vermont

The following Democratic governors also signed it:

  • John Hickenlooper of Colorado

  • John Bel Edwards of Louisiana

  • Steve Bullock of Montana

  • Terry McAuliffe of Virginia

  • Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania

In addition, numerous polls did show little public support for the GOP's proposals to repeal and replace Obama's law. An AP-NORC poll, before the vote, found only 22 percent of the public backing the Republican approach, while 51 percent were opposed.

But why is the United States the only advanced country without a universal health insurance? The Quartz wrote that it's not only that the US is the only industrialized nation without universal health coverage, it has also the highest health-care spending in the world-both in absolute terms and as a share of GDP- and also one of the highest levels of government spending on health care per person. And how did it come to be this way? The answer is that the lack of universal coverage and high costs are intimately linked-both economically and historically.

Single-payer health-care (in which the government pays for universal coverage, typically through taxes) helps keep costs down for two reasons: It means that the government can regulate and negotiate the price of drugs and medical services, and it eliminates the need for a vast private health-insurance bureaucracy. Currently, the US spends two to three times as much, per capita, on health care as most industrialized countries.

Many Americans think their system is expensive because it's very good. They are wrong: The US ranks 28th, below almost all other rich countries, when it comes to the quality of its healthcare assessed by UN parameters (pdf, p. 13).

Per capita spending in healthcare in Dollar:

United States - $9,451;

Norway - 6,567;

Netherlands - 5,343;

Germany - 5,267;

Sweden - 5,228;

Ireland - 5,131;

Austria -5,016;

Denmark -4,943;

Belgium - 4,611;

Canada - 4,608;

Australia - 4,420;

France - 4,407;

Japan - 4,150;

United Kingdom - 4,003;

New Zealand - 3,590;

Italy - 3,272;

Spain - 3,153

Since World War II, that's around 1943, the United States diverged from other industrialized nations, and, rather than offering universal health coverage, built up a system that relied on private insurance. Despite the evidence that a single-payer system - universal health insurance coverage - would be a more efficient and cheaper choice, it hasn't been introduced in the US.

Just like President Jimmy Carter, I believe that America will one day have a universal insurance coverage, like all the other advanced countries. Former President Jimmy Carter (D) predicted that the U.S. will eventually switch over to a universal single-payer healthcare system, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, July 23. The Hill wrote that Carter, 92, made the remarks ahead of teaching his Sunday school class in Plains, Georgia. He said: "When I was in the White House, I tried to get Medicare to cover everyone".

Single-payer healthcare programs have been gaining traction among members of the Democratic party, with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), two potential 2020 presidential candidates, both backing the Medicare-for-all program. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also centered his 2016 presidential bid around universal healthcare, calling for a system that "makes healthcare a right, not a privilege."

The AP wrote that the popularity of Bernie Sanders and his single-payer health care model, during the 2016 Democratic primaries, however, is a signal that more Americans are open to the idea. Certainly more than in 1993, when Hillary Clinton, then first lady, was heavily criticized for her attempt to push a universal coverage plan.

Gallup's polls suggest that after a few years of skepticism, Americans are again warming up to the idea that health care should be a government responsibility. The Republicans' failure to pass their health-care law seems to confirm a prediction made early in the Trump administration: that once people had had a taste of increased health-care security with Obamacare, they wouldn't easily forget it. It has steadily grown more popular.

Obamacare is the best that has happened for now, but it's not perfect, as it has so many flaws. What President Trump and the Republican lawmakers should have done was to work with the democratic lawmakers to fix those shortcomings. As I noted earlier, Obamacare gave about 20 million Americans a health insurance, but nearly 30 million people are still not covered, and, Quartz noted, just as Republicans complain, Obamacare burdens middle-class Americans with higher insurance premiums, and the government with higher subsidies. These need to be fixed!

One good thing about the failure to repeal Obamacare is that it will lead more to bipartisanship in congress, a point lenovotips made when it wrote that on Capitol Hill; at least some Republican senators seem interested in starting a more routine, bipartisan discussion over how to address the very real problems with the Affordable Care Act. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who provided a dramatic and pivotal vote against repeal, has urged bipartisanship. So have the two other Republican senators who broke ranks, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has already announced he intends to hold hearings on problems in the newly regulated markets ? and how to fix them. He stated further that he'll work with the panel's top Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington State, to continue billions in payments to insurers in order to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low- and middle-income customers. In exchange, Alexander wants to relax coverage requirements that protect consumers under Obama's law.

The AP also reports that a week after an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says he'd consider a bipartisan effort to continue payments to insurers to avert a costly rattling of health insurance markets.

A good thing is good, and Obamacare is alive and well, because it has made, and is making, life better for millions.

President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images)

After the Republicans failed to kill his health bill, Barack Obama, on that Friday, credited supporters of the Affordable Care Act for saving his signature legislation from Republican-led efforts to dismantle it, and he acknowledged that the law can be improved. His spokesman, Kevin Lewis, said that Obamacare remains the law "because of everyone who mobilized, organized and made their voices heard. President Obama has always said we should build on this law, just as members of both parties worked together to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years. President Obama still believes that it is possible for Congress to demonstrate the necessary bipartisanship and political courage to keep delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health insurance for every American."

Verily, I agree that Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history. The vox noted that the utter failure of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump to pass a bill rolling back the Affordable Care Act makes one thing perfectly clear: love him or hate him, Barack Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in American history - and he will be a particularly towering figure in the history of American progressivism.

Obama signed into law a comprehensive national health insurance bill, a goal that had eluded progressive presidents for a century - and built it strong enough to withstand assaults from the Supreme Court, and avoid repeal from a Republican administration. He got surprisingly tough reforms to Wall Street passed as well, not to mention a stimulus package that both blunted the recession and transformed education and energy policy.

He's put in place the toughest climate rules in American history and signed a major international climate accord. He opened the US to Cuba, for the first time in more than half a century, and reached a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff with Iran.

You can celebrate or bemoan these accomplishments. Liberals hail them as moves toward a social democratic welfare state and a foreign policy more skeptical of military intervention; conservatives critique Obama's efforts to expand regulation and the government's reach, and accuse him of abdicating America's role as world hegemon.

But no one can deny that the changes Obama has wrought are enormous in scale.

Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, whose votes helped in drowning the effort to kill Obamacare, reflected on their action, and they said that before the vote, they spoke with McCain on the Senate floor. "You two are right on this issue," McCain said, according to Collins, and she said she then knew he would be the third defector on the vote. Senator Lisa Murkowski recalled that McCain said "people might not appreciate what has happened right now as being a positive. But time will prove that, having a pause, having time out for us to do better, is going to be good for the country."

And that's what I also believe (universal health insurance coverage is coming some day).








Continued from Part 1