WASHINGTON — One year after Congress passed a landmark health care law, its detractors continue to campaign against it with deceit, dissembling and distortion. They have blamed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for a high unemployment rate, runaway deficits and spiraling health care costs.
The facts don’t count for much in this debate. It doesn’t seem to matter that President Obama’s predecessor ate through a budget surplus with two unfunded wars and, ironically, a huge new health care entitlement — a prescription drug plan for seniors. Nor does it seem to matter that health care costs were soaring for years before the Affordable Care Act, which curbs Medicare spending.
Obama and his Democratic colleagues, including Nancy Pelosi, share the blame for the confusion and misinformation that abound: They did a poor job of building public support for the law, allowing Republicans to create a backlash.
But you’ve got to give the law’s critics credit, too. Unrestrained by truth or reason, they have engaged in a creative campaign to discredit the law, often reversing their previously held positions. Mitt Romney’s attempts to distance himself from his own Massachusetts health care law, from which “Obamacare” borrows heavily, are well known. And laughable.
Then there are detractors such as Atlanta-area businessman Herman Cain. As he considers a run for the GOP nomination for the presidency, Cain likes to tell audiences that he would not have survived Stage IV colon cancer if the Affordable Care Act had been in place. He repeated that contention when I interviewed him here in February.
“If Obamacare gets implemented, it will slow down the process of treatment from start to finish. Every socialized health care system has shown that.
. . If we had had a system similar to the one they have in Canada or Britain, I wouldn’t have been able to get the quality of care or the speed of care,” Cain told me.
There’s a problem with those comparisons, though. The Affordable Care Act bares no resemblance to the systems in place in Great Britain (where many doctors and nurses are government employees) or Canada (which has a single-payer system, much like Medicare for all citizens). The new health care law would require every American to purchase private health insurance.
Nothing in the law would force Cain, a wealthy businessman, to give up the private health insurance policy that helped pay for the care he received at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the nation’s leading cancer treatment facilities. Nothing in the Affordable Care Act prohibits the center’s cutting edge treatments or rations them.
Since Cain would brook no disagreement, I left the interview confused about whether he genuinely believed his factually incorrect arguments. Perhaps he was merely repeating the false claims he’s heard in rightwing circles.
However, I’m certain that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was intentionally disingenuous and misleading in an essay he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week, in which he suggested that his now-grown daughter, who was born with a heart defect, would not have survived under the current law.
He was careful with his rhetoric, engaging in innuendo, half-truths and speculation. “I am convinced that ObamaCare was designed to lead to a government takeover of our entire health-care system,” he wrote — an assertion that merely cozies up to the lie that the new law is a government takeover.
Like Cain, Johnson is a very wealthy man, and his daughter was covered by private health insurance. Nothing in the Affordable Care Act would take away his right to purchase that policy or circumvent his “freedom to seek out the most advanced surgical technique.”
The Affordable Care Act merely seeks to give more Americans that same “freedom.” It’s hardly a perfect piece of legislation, but it’s a pretty darn good one. If it were as bad as its critics claim, they’d be much more likely to tell the truth about it.