Government Shut Down Over Affordable Health Care

By David Palmer

October 1st this year marks two historic events: The implementation of the health care exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act which will allow consumers to shop nationwide for affordable health insurance, and the first government shutdown in 17 years over people having access that affordable health insurance.

House Republicans have been threatening to shut down the government over either delaying, defunding, or completely repealing President Obama’s signature legislative achievement pretty much since the law was signed into being in 2009. So far, they have wasted over 40 separate “symbolic” votes to repeal the ACA, knowing full well that such a measure could never pass the Senate, and would be subject to a presidential veto if somehow the measure passed to the President’s desk. (That’s several million dollars of taxpayer money wasted.)

Up until this point, shutdown was avoided in 11th hour agreements that only amounted to band-aids that attempted to stop the bleeding from the femoral artery of our government’s deficit and debt ceiling, albeit they were craftily designed not to be a permanent solution. It seems that House Republicans have not grown tired these past five years of holding the government hostage to their twisted ideology. Their misguided idea is that the ACA will somehow bring doom and gloom to small and large businesses alike, causing them to hemorrhage jobs, and that somehow the government will be able to dictate which doctors and hospitals you will be able to go to.

The truth could not be further from their beliefs. Since the individual mandate portion of the ACA requires all Americans to purchase health insurance from existing companies, it is still insurance companies who are limiting choices in terms of doctors and hospitals. No doubt, insurance companies are limiting health care options for consumers so they can offer broadened stock and salary options to their upper management all while showing on paper they are using 80% of their proceeds to pay for their customers’ health care.

As far as businesses being “forced” to lay people off or reduce full-time employees to part-time hours, that can be chalked up to good old-fashioned greed. The CEO’s of the companies laying people off and cutting hours never even once thought of reducing their own salaries by 10%, which might translate to millions in savings for their company. They would rather see their employees forced onto the state exchanges or onto the state unemployment system than forego the Bentley they plan on purchasing next month, even if foregoing that Bentley would save their own company.

Yes, House Republicans would rather seem hundreds of thousands of workers be furloughed without pay, see Medicare and Medicaid payments delayed, see delay in the processing of new veterans’ benefits claims than fix what they claim to be broken in the ACA, propose viable legislation of their own, or pay America’s bills. (The deadline to increase the debt ceiling is a mere 16 days away, and will probably result in yet another showdown in Congress.)

This government shutdown and the forced furloughing of workers of course will lead to these workers applying for unemployment benefits in their home states, and has been magnificently timed to coincide with the implementation of the ACA health insurance exchanges. When unemployment numbers for October show an uptick in unemployment claims, the Republicans are sure to pounce with a claim that the ACA somehow caused this uptick in unemployment. However, instead of telling the truth about how they perpetuated the increase in unemployment, they will try to claim that businesses have started mass layoffs to curb supposed mass price increases. (A complete farce of its own.)

The absolute truth of this matter is that our nation is quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world. From the outside looking in, Congress amounts to a nursery full of babies ready to throw a temper tantrum the minute they don’t get every last thing that they want. They see 1/30th of our total government power taking control of governance that is supposed to be decided by majority rule. They see political leaders disenfranchise their own constituents in an attempt to cling desperately to power while we cry for UN sanctions and the bombing of despotic leaders in other countries that do the same thing.

Most of all, they see a nation bitterly divided over providing affordable health care to millions of Americans forced to do without it. They puzzle over why it is that we rely on a privatized health care system in which people can be denied lifesaving treatment because an insurance company purposefully wrote conflicting clauses into the contract to avoid paying benefits. Even the most conservative members of their government realize that a single payer health care system in which no one is denied treatment is the moral and just thing to do.

Yet, here we are, shutting down the government over forcing insurers to provide quality, low cost insurance to people with low incomes, pre-existing conditions, or a combination thereof. Congress is refusing to do its constitutionally mandated duty of paying the nation’s bills and passing legislation, which is grounds for impeachment. Since the House is technically in charge of drafting impeachment charges, the next best bet is to vote the bums out in 2014.