As the Affordable Care Act (affectionately known as Obamacare) struggles to get off the ground, conservatives are showing that their devotion to making the president look bad far exceeds their interest in cutting deficits, curbing out of control spending, and eliminating the moochers. They have become the ultimate Monday morning quarterbacks. In the past they clamored for market competition, an individual mandate, cuts to Medicare payments and an Independent Payment Advisory Board and, now that their vision has become reality, they hate it.
The problem is that as much as Republicans dislike the ACA, it can't be fixed, improved or changed without Republican support. Even if every Democrat coalesced around a set of solutions, nothing will happen if Republicans' only participation is "I told you so."
The ACA website has been a huge disappointment. Perhaps contractors need to be held accountable, or Kathleen Sebelius needs to be fired, or President Obama needs to accept that getting elected trumped a successful launch. But none of that improves the website's functionality. Watching the ACA flounder doesn't get it repealed, reduce premiums, or get more people insured. So rather than whining, now is the time to step up, and offer support in exchange for improvements.
You know, compromise.
At some point many of our nation's critical systems are going to meet a similar fate as they need to be brought into the 21st century. The ACA provides politicians with a chance to learn from their mistakes so we don't repeat them when we attempt to modernize our electrical grid, the Federal Aviation Administration, or other public services.
The United Kingdom went through a similar transformation recently and found that, with the proper investment, not only do services improve but costs can come down as well. The focus by conservatives on scoring political points puts us at odds with creating a government structure that not only helps us succeed with future IT projects, but reestablishes the U.S. as the technological leader.
Beyond the troubles with the ACA website there are far more important issues that the Right is ignoring. For example the ACA doesn't cover all Americans. This means there are still people who will be forced to use the emergency room as their only doctors visits -- a plan that has been shown to be costly for both the insured and uninsured as well as bad for individuals overall health. Who thinks this is a good idea? There are also a number of people who are being kicked off Medicaid because of the ACA's state Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, a number of states have decided to not participate, leaving millions of previously insured Americans uninsured. Are there no solutions better than punishing hard-working people in favor of partisan posturing?
So while Republican leaders like Speaker John Boehner have spent much of the past few years suggesting that we need to have an "adult conversation," the conservative "I'm taking my ball and going home" attitude of obstruct and complain hardly seems to exemplify the type of leadership they believe is missing in today's discourse. Lack of Republican support for the ACA doesn't absolve Republicans of their ongoing responsibility for this legislation.
They won the House and should be expected to participate in democracy -- not retard it.
In the end, all of the complaints won't change the past. The ACA was passed and Barack Obama was reelected. Even our nation's most sacred document has been updated 27 times. Are we really supposed to believe that the ACA is an all or nothing proposition?
The reality is that for the entire 2012 election cycle Republicans begged for the power to change the ACA. Now that they have it, they don't get to pretend there is nothing they can do.