Conservative Washington Post columnist defends Obamacare and slams GOP efforts to abolish it


With President Donald Trump calling for federal courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, as unconstitutional, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in the House of Representatives are responding with a proposal to strengthen and expand the ACA. And conservative Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin applauds Pelosi’s move in her latest column, asserting that Trump and his allies have nothing constructive to offer on health care reform.

Although numerous Democrats campaigned on universal healthcare in the 2018 midterms, they have different views on how to achieve it. Some favor an aggressive expansion of Obamacare, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (an independent who is running for president in the 2020 Democratic primary) favors a single payer or Medicare-for-all program. And Rubin, in her March 27 column, is critical of both Sanders (calling Medicare-for-all a “rabbit hole”) and Trump but describes Pelosi as politically astute.

“The House Democrats’ bill,” Rubin notes, “sets out a proposal to, among other things, reduce health-care premiums—capping out-of-pocket costs at 10% of income—and expanding tax credits for those beyond 400% of the federal poverty line: $104,000 for a family of four…. The bill also reinstates the guarantee for those with preexisting conditions, disallows non-ACA-compliant plans and reaffirms the list of essential health-care benefits to be covered by the ACA.”

Rubin asserts that the Democratic House bill should “serve as a warning to Democratic presidential candidates that following Sanders down the rabbit hole marked ‘Medicare-for-all’ is foolish politically and unresponsive to voters’ demands.” The conservative columnist takes a swipe at Sanders by asserting that “there is little popular support for ripping out all private health-care coverage” but is even more critical of Trump when she writes that there is “even less for taking healthcare coverage away from 20 million people”—which, according to a new Urban Institute study that Rubin links to via the Washington Post’s website, is roughly how many Americans would lose their health insurance if Obamacare were abolished.

Rubin also cites a March 26 Quinnipiac poll saying that U.S.-based voters, including 60% of Democrats, prefer 55%-32% to improve the health care system in the U.S. rather than replace it. However, Rubin also notes that according to Quinnipiac, “a public option gets support from 61% of Democrats and 51% overall.”

Given how angrily so many Republicans have been railing against the ACA ever since it was passed by Democrats in the House and Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, it is unusual to find a conservative columnist like Rubin defending it rather than calling for its abolition. But it’s important to remember that the basic idea behind Obamacare—universal health care via the private sector—is something that President Richard Nixon, Sen. Bob Dole, the Heritage Foundation and other Republicans favored in the past. In fact, President Obama even sought the advice of Stuart Altman (Nixon’s early 1970s consultant on health care reform) when Obamacare was being put together.

Rubin concludes her column by stressing that the Democratic House bill on ACA expansion illustrates the contrast between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to health care.

“House Democrats would be wise to pass the bill, send it to the Senate and then hold Republicans accountable if they refuse to vote on it and the court strikes down the ACA,” Rubin writes. “Meanwhile, presidential candidates should reassure voters that they can deliver real, meaningful relief that is also feasible — and much preferable to a bumper-sticker slogan with no chance of passing Congress. As for Democratic incumbents and Democratic challengers up in 2020, the choice between nothing and Obamacare-plus will provide the stark contrast they seek to make with Republicans.”

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