FIELDING THE PUNT

1. It’s Saturday, March 25, 2017. It’s the birthday of Howard Cosell and Gloria Steinem.

Some quick thoughts about the Republican American Health Care Act Debacle of 2017:

2. For seven years, we’ve heard Republicans say they had a better idea about health care than the odious Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Seven years of playing on the biggest perceived flaws in the ACA – that people weren’t able to keep their doctors, that slowing the pace of premium increases didn’t end premium increases and that forcing young people to get insurance or pay a penalty

Seven years of claiming that government overreach was infringing on people’s freedom.

Seven years of winning elections by telling people that they had a better idea. Something that preserved their choices and saved them money.

Nothing. These bastards – led by Trump and Ryan, make no mistake – had nothing. They tried to throw something together as a bandage to cover the wound they wanted to inflict.

It was never about providing people with health care solutions. It was always about capitalizing on their anxieties.

Shame on them. Shame on the American people for believing them.

3. Because here was the Republicans’ big miscalculation:

Before the ACA, even people with fairly good health plan attained through their employer had anxieties.

Remember that pre-existing conditions weren’t covered. Remember that a lot of the care special to women – pregnancy prevention comes quickly to mind – wasn’t covered. Remember that, if you’re a parent, your kids were no longer covered the day they finished college – sooner if they didn’t go.

And all those polls that showed Obamacare was unpopular were misleading.

At times, a plurality of Americans didn’t like it because it was an intrusion on their lives.

But if you added the percentage who liked Obamacare to the percentage who didn’t like it because it didn’t do enough, you usually crossed the 50% mark.

A solid majority of Americans doesn’t want to go back to the days when it was a completely free market.

When they saw a bill that would do that, they went crazy. They told the Republicans that their idea was ridiculous.

The result was yesterday.

4. What happens now?

Well, to hear Trump, he’s saying he will let Obamacare die of its faults and then Democrats will come running to him, begging for a deal.

And he can do a lot to push Obamacare down. That health.gov website can get worse. He can cajole some more insurers to pull out of the exchanges, offering fewer choices – there are already lots of areas where only one company is involved, driving premiums higher.

So the first thing supporters need to do is to cut the celebration short. Focus on what changes can be made to ACA to help sustain it.

And then they need to sell that. Big time. That should be a big focus of the next year. Go on the air and explain ACA 2.0 – how they’re going to solve the problems that have cropped up.

It’s hard in this environment to think there are people on the other side to reach out to. There’s hope – read the thoughtful Atlantic piece by David Frum, a conservative now scorned by the right, who believes there’s a way to better health care in this country through some form of government intervention.

There probably are others like him. Clearly, Mitt Romney used to be – it’s the Massachusetts health care plan that he shepherded that’s the model for Obamacare.

And I’ll bet he didn’t do it alone – there are others on the Republican side who are likely still crowing – as they can – about what a success they pulled off.

Democrats have a choice. They can see the Republican failure as a sign that it’s time to push for the real dream – a single-payer system that would put the U.S. in the same league as Canada, Britain and other Western democracies. Personally, I’m cool with that.

Or, even though they’re out of power, they can govern. They can come up with the Obamacare improvements in league with those Republicans who also believe the idea of the United States should work. That compromise and innovation still have a place in this country, despite the small-minded jackass in the White House and his counterpart in the Speaker’s chair.

The Republicans punted on health care yesterday. In football, punts are notoriously hard to field. Sometimes, the returner bobbles it, and the other side grabs the loose ball and ends up closer to its end zone.

But sometimes, the returner catches the ball, finds an opening and scores.

That’s what the Democrats need to do. It’s not easy. But it’s better for everyone if they succeed.

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