Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

‘De-funding’ Affordable Care Act: A losing proposition

During this unquiet summer, President Obama and his advocates have carried on a running argument with Republicans and their allies over the merits of the Affordable Care Act, which he must implement on Oct. 1. By far, the president has gotten the better part of this argument.

Having failed to stop enactment, the anti-“Obamacare” faction, relying on scare tactics and false cries that doom is about to descend, has been waging a nonstop crusade against the law ever since the president signed the bill and made it official. Validation by a conservative Supreme Court, instead of tempering their efforts, only increased the opponents’ fervor.

By and large, the arguments fall into two categories: (1) It won’t work — even though those parts that have been implemented already are working, and popular. Or (2) it’s too expensive — even though subsidies will help many of the working poor and some of those already insured have gotten rebates from insurance companies that spent too much on administration instead of patient care.

The latest notion, supported, among others, by Sen. Marco Rubio, is that Congress should de-fund “Obamacare” when the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 or, failing that, shut down the government. That’s the wackiest idea yet, with numerous prominent Republicans speaking out against it.

A “de-fund” bill might get through the House, which has cast some 40 futile votes to repeal the law, but it would never pass muster in the Senate. And even if it could, the president would never sign it. The effort is DOA.

As for the notion of shutting down the government, level-headed Repubicans have been warning their hot-headed colleagues in Washington to put a lid on it. Among them are card-carrying conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s candidate for vice president last year.

Earlier this month, GOP leaders at the National Governors Association also warned against the shutdown effort. They said it would damage the economy and backfire on the party. “I don’t see what it accomplishes,” said GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota. He’s right. Shutting down the government in an effort to prevent 30 million people from getting healthcare is a losing agenda.

Granted, all has not gone smoothly with the implementation of the new healthcare law. The government’s self-imposed, two-month test period, August and September, is too brief to take all the kinks out of the system. In the private sector, a major overhaul of such a big system would have taken about six months to assure fewer problems on Day One.

In addition, the administration was forced to delay a requirement that all employers with more than 50 employees provide coverage to their workers until 2015. Mr. Obama defended this as a cost-saving measure that was done in consultation with the private sector.

But otherwise, the new law has been a success. Just ask the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance and have benefited by being able to keep their children insured if they’re age 26 or younger. Or ask seniors who have been getting discounts on their prescription drugs. Or those who have been getting free preventive care like mammograms and contraception. They are all winners, along with the 30 million uninsured Americans who will henceforth be covered.

MONDAY: Florida’s government takes the wrong approach to The Affordable Care Act.

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