Lehrer: Congress must stop trying to hurt Americans, but help them

In case you didn’t see the news this past week, the Republican-led Congress—that is, both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives—passed a bill almost exclusively across party lines to defund Planned Parenthood for a year and to repeal most of the components of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—sometimes referred to as “Obamacare”. It was in large part symbolic, to show the hard-right voters that these folks “mean business.”

Listen, I’m not going to start out by professing my love for the ACA. It needs to be improved and enhanced for sure. However the facts are that now around 17.6 million people have gained health coverage via the parts of the law that have been implemented via the exchange markets, Medicaid expansion and so on. Since the main phase of the law was implemented, the rate of uninsured Americans has dropped from 18.0 percent to 11.4 percent after Quarter 1 of 2015.

But to me, the more disturbing aspect of this action was that the GOP leaders were giddy with these accomplishments. Essentially, I feel they’re saying, “We just got rid of parts of this law, and we’re going to strip most of newly-insured Americans and their families because we do not like it.”

While they have “talked the talked,” they have utterly failed to “walk to walk.” Despite voting to repeal Obamacare 62 times, the Republicans have yet to propose full-fledged, comprehensive pieces of legislation to ensure that healthcare is still accessible to a substantial amount of Americans.
Simply put, it was not before the ACA. This law has survived an election, and two U.S. Supreme Court cases; to run on a campaign still, after almost six years, of repealing Obamacare is not only illogical, I’d go so far as to argue it is callous and stupid.

The saddest thing that most Americans do not realize is that the ACA is rooted in Republican and conservative thinkers. Even I did not know (as most don’t) that the passage of this the federal health care reform bill was substantially rooted in early Republican efforts. Most policy proposals started as early as 1993-94, in trying to offer a GOP-alternative to the Clinton efforts to develop a nationalized, universal health care system. Later, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, championed it during his tenure. Thus, not only is the Republican’s fixation on repealing a law that has helped so many Americans upsetting, it is quite hypocritical to say the least.

And aren’t the Republicans supposed to be budget-savvy and want to clamp down on federal spending? If the ACA was to repealed, analyses done by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now project that it will be economically detrimental; it actually defies some major GOP tenets, because doing so would raise our deficit and debts by nearly $353 billion.

Another thing. President Obama and the Democrats wanted bipartisan support, and stalled the passage of the legislation as a result until March of 2010. So, to say this law, which has now helped so many Americans five years after it was passed, was “jammed down Americans throats” and did not represent the majority is hard to grasp.

And let’s not forget the defunding of Planned Parenthood. To claim this is not an attack on women’s reproductive rights, health and well-being would be unsound. The videos released this summer, which showed Planned Parenthood staff selling fetal tissue, have been refuted time and again. Planned Parenthood is a vital resource for not only women, but romantic partners, married couples and families across the country. And the fact remains: while three percent of services provided at Planned Parenthood are abortion-related; the rest is dedicated to cancer screenings and prevention, sexually-transmitted infection testing and treatment and contraceptive education and resource allocation.

Right before the end of 2015, Congress surprised America with a bipartisan compromise to ensure that there would be funding for highways, infrastructure and medical research via a much-needed spending bill, as well as a law seeking to get rid of the increasingly burdensome amount of testing for our children in K-12 through education reform legislation. There was hope. But, I believe it has all but been forgotten. Whereas President Obama kicked off the new year with a very powerful and moving speech the steps he’ll take via executive action to curb gun violence, the GOP greeted it with gleefully pushing through legislation that effectively would hurt many Americans—not help them.

Thank you, President Obama, for not backing down in ensuring that the average American has a basic level health coverage and that women and couples across the nation have access to helpful services involved in family planning. Moreover, shame on you, Republicans in Congress, for being so obsessed with gutting a law that has indeed predominantly worked.

In case it was not obvious, Josh Lehrer has a burning passion for policy issues related to health care reform. He feels that in a country as rich and powerful as the United States, every American has a right to health coverage and access. He is a fourth-year student.