Running on Obamacare failure denies reality

Its success in New Hampshire calls into question the whole political strategy of making opposition to health care reform your platform centerpiece

It is impossible to ignore the New Hampshire Obamacare signup numbers announced earlier this month. The number of New Hampshire people who signed up for health insurance were double what had been expected – more than 40,000 enrolled.

As I recall, there were months of premature accusations of Obamacare failure. If you watched cable news, it was a regular right-wing sound bite, associating "Obamacare" with failure. If you say it enough times that will make it so.

How to explain the success of Obamacare in New Hampshire? Credit must go to Karen Hicks, project manager for Covering New Hampshire, and a dedicated team of consumer assisters who helped to connect people to and enroll them in New Hampshire's Obamacare marketplace. They had to overcome a rocky start with the early miserable performance of the website. They were able to recover with a strong finish in March and April.

The numbers reflect the degree of need in the community. Health care and insurance have been so expensive that Obamacare could not have been more timely. There were no other practical, affordable alternatives.

The success of Obamacare in New Hampshire calls into question the whole political strategy of making opposition to health care reform your platform centerpiece. To maintain and sustain that, you have to ignore or obfuscate what actually has happened.

Obamacare opponents have counted on the program flopping, but the program is resurgent and attracting more and more people who have been in desperate need of affordable insurance. I think this is the same political problem experienced by earlier generations of right-wingers who had opposed Social Security and Medicare. Over time, these programs became more popular with the American people.

You have to ask Obamacare opponents: What is so great about being without health insurance? Is that part of your liberty, the freedom to be uninsured?

I am at a loss to understand the logic of seeing receipt of Obamacare as reflecting a loss of personal freedom. The "right" to be uninsured is right up there with the right to starve. To call stuff like that a "right" is perverse. Being uninsured typically translates into an inability to access health care at all. Good luck with the emergency room.

Opponents of Obamacare also have offered no credible alternative, just a bunch of rhetoric.

There is a health care alternative that goes further than Obamacare. In 2011, Vermont enacted Act 48, the country's first universal health care law. The Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign, led by the Vermont Workers Center, has been moving that effort forward.

As the campaign stated:

"This is the time to commit to a financing plan based on the principle of equity, which requires progressive tax-based financing so that everyone contributes according to their ability. It is time to commit to a truly universal system that puts people's health needs first, leaves no one out, and is sufficiently funded to meet all our health care needs.”

At the federal level, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has promoted a parallel plan. He has argued that health care is a right, not a privilege. He has articulated a goal of having universal affordable coverage.

I see no inconsistency in supporting both Obamacare and the goal of universal coverage. Obamacare has moved us closer to the goal of full coverage. There is more than one way to skin a cat. It will be interesting to see if Obamacare opponents slink off or maintain. With the new Obamacare numbers in our state, either way is a lose-lose for them.

Jonathan P. Baird of Wilmot is an administrative law judge. His column reflects his own view and not that of his employer, the Social Security Administration.

Categories: Opinion