Las Vegas Sun

June 30, 2022

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A difficult first year

Health care law is still sadly engulfed in unnecessary controversy, fighting

In the year since President Barack Obama signed the hallmark health care reform bill into law, the country has remained divided over it. That has been troubling, particularly in the way some people have attacked the issue.

There are 28 states, including Nevada, involved in court challenges, and Republicans continue to make outlandish claims about how government is “taking over” health care and violating people’s rights. No wonder why opinion polls show such a deep divide in the public’s views of the law.

Should health care really be this divisive?

No, but the Republicans have made it so. Their relentless attacks, which have misrepresented the law and unnecessarily provoked people’s fears, have worked, and polls show a clear divide in public opinion.

The tragedy is that as it turns a year old the health care law’s future is still in question because of the attacks and lawsuits. It didn’t have to be this way.

After the legislation passed, Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress tried to work with Republicans to address concerns about the law and make changes. But Republicans have steadfastly refused to reciprocate. They made a clear statement when they took control of the House of Representatives in January. The first major order of business was pushing through a measure to repeal the law, even though the plan had no hope of getting past the Democratic-led Senate or the president.

Sadly, Republicans have used the health care law as a way to try to score political points, and they have continued to encourage and support the lawsuits attempting to overturn the law.

Unfortunately, that has helped polarized the nation and obscured the real issues. The cost of health care continues to soar, and millions of Americans are without insurance and access to basic care.

Instead of addressing the inequities in the health care system and honestly engaging in reform efforts, Republicans have tried to wrap themselves in the Constitution. They have argued that the law oversteps the bounds of federal power and is unconstitutional. But judges who have ruled on the case so far are split in their opinions. The federal government certainly seems to have the authority to regulate health care — it affects every citizen, is often provided across state lines and accounts for a sixth of the nation’s economy.

But this isn’t really an issue of the law’s legality, it’s a matter of ideology.

Conservatives are fighting government involvement in a system that is badly in need of reform. Instead of arguing the merits of the issue, they raise the specter of a government “takeover” of health care and say care will be “rationed” out. But the government isn’t taking over health care. It would help people access private health insurance. And rationing? Insurance companies already do that. The involvement of the federal government will actually help — for example, insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage based on their health histories.

In addition, the law should ease costs, which have spiraled out of control for years, and that should help everyone.

All in all, this is a good law. Yes, it can use some tweaking, but repealing it would be a tragic mistake. Given the high costs both financially and in human terms, America can’t afford to go back to the way things were.

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