Despite a coordinated and well-financed effort to sabotage and overturn the Affordable Care Act, the open enrollment numbers this week indicate there is a ground swell of support by Americans for a universal and effective healthcare coverage.
That may surprise some of you but not this columnist. Back in the day, I lived through the fear and anxiety of having no job or health-care coverage. The nightmare of how to protect my family kept me awake at nights. Fortunately I did land a job, actually a crappy position I took simply because my employer offered health care coverage.
Right here in my neck of the woods, The North Adams Regional Hospital announced (with three days’ notice) it was closing, putting 530 hospital employees (and their families) out of work. A by-product of this lay-off is an abrupt end to their medical insurance. In a different day, these families would have nowhere to turn. Fortunately, thanks to the Massachusetts health care laws and now the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there is someplace to turn.
Most readers understand that the legislation that is Obamacare is far from perfect. In my opinion, its passage was simply the beginning brick of a health care system foundation whose time had come in this, the greatest nation in the world. I expected that there would be wholesale changes to the original legislation as time went by. The resulting vitriol response to the law consisting of over-blown predictions of doom, outright lies and organized sabotage both dismayed and angered me.
Granted, the Obama administration fumbled the ball right out of the gate with their less than auspicious launch of the program’s primary website, HealthCare.gov. The Congressional Budget Office, you may recall, had subsequently reduced its estimate of open enrolment by this Monday’s deadline to only 6 million due to the botched launch.
Some of the data extrapolations and promises of what the program could and would do for those Americans who were uninsured or under insured were also overblown. That damaged the credibility of a sincere effort to provide what even many emerging nations offer their citizens. Obamacare was quickly labeled a “train wreck” by the majority of Republicans and was touted as the main issue of the upcoming mid-term elections. Yet, none of those mistakes warranted the effort to overturn the law, let alone shut down the government if its critics didn’t get their way.
So it is doubly important to recognize that with all these headwinds, the government’s original estimate of 7 million enrollments in individual insurance plans was not only met but exceeded by the March 31 deadline. All those predictions that the ACA would spawn “death panels” (Sarah Palin), massive layoffs (Marco Rubio), skyrocketing health costs (most Republicans) and let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh’s prediction of “the total collapse of American society,” were either outright lies or at best examples of monumental ignorance.
Readers note that this week there has been a deafening silence from the opposition. How very predictable.
Make no mistake; the opposition pulled out all the stops to defeat this effort. As one small example, the response to my own columns on Obamacare was organized and orchestrated. I still receive daily and weekly comments protesting my position on the need for some kind of universal healthcare. I started to dutifully publish these comments but soon realized the e-mails were so similar and the writing style so clearly from the same hand that it became obvious that I was a victim of a mass anti-Obamacare e-mail campaign. I can’t prove it nor do I need to. I simply delete the innumerable computer-generated e-mails from “poor widows and orphans wiped out by Obama.”
Bottom line, I hope these Obamacare enrollment numbers force a change in the opposition’s tactics. Rather than insist on overturning a much-needed health care initiative in this country, wouldn’t it be nice if they simply worked to improve it?