On the day after the Nov. 6 elections, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner conceded that the reelection of Barack Obama as president, along with a Republican-controlled Senate, made it effectively impossible that the federal health care act known as Obamacare will ever be repealed.
“Obamacare is the law of the land,” Boehner told a reporter.
Georgia U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, another staunch critic of Obamacare, also acknowledged the reality of the election results as they related to the health care law.
“It would be pointless, in my opinion, to have a vote on repeal,” Gingrey said.
Boehner and Gingrey are just as opposed as they ever were to Obamacare, but they are also realists. America’s voters had a clear choice on Nov. 6 between a president who signed Obamacare into law and his Republican challenger who promised he would repeal Obamacare on “day one” of his presidency.
The incumbent president was re-elected, which means that his health care law will continue to be implemented.
One local politician who still refuses to accept that reality is Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal’s last vote as a member of Congress in 2010 was to oppose the final passage of Obamacare. He apparently is determined to do everything he can to stop the health care act from being implemented, just as King Canute of England once commanded the tide not to roll in and wet his feet.
One of the key aspects of the health care act is the establishment of health insurance exchanges where consumers can compare prices and features of various insurance plans and select one that might be most affordable for their needs.
Deal sent a letter to the federal government Nov. 16 informing them he would not set up a state-operated insurance exchange. “I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns,” Deal said.
That won’t stop the exchange, of course. Deal’s refusal to set one up means that the federal government will step in and run it.
Deal also says he will not participate in another major provision of Obamacare: the expansion of Medicaid coverage so that 650,000 uninsured Georgians would finally have health insurance coverage.
The health care law provides that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of this expanded coverage for the first three years and 90 percent of the costs thereafter. This would bring an estimated $30 billion into the state’s economy over the next 10 years, with the money going to hospitals, doctors and other persons who provide medical care.
This is the governor’s call, of course, and the Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare gives Deal the legal right to refuse to expand Medicaid coverage.
I have always had trouble understanding why Deal would be so opposed to a health care plan that was conceived and initially implemented by his Republican colleagues.
The central provision of Obamacare — the mandatory requirement that persons buy health care coverage from a private insurer — was an idea that was first proposed in the early 1990s by a Republican congressman from Georgia named Newt Gingrich. This is the same person whom Deal supported when Gingrich ran for president in the most recent election cycle.
Obamacare is also modeled after a state insurance plan called “Romneycare” that was proposed and signed into law by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney more than six years ago. Romneycare has been a stirring success in the Bay State, even though Romney disavowed the program when he ran for president.
It seems odd that Deal would be so strongly opposed to Obamacare when it was the brainchild of his Republican colleagues, including someone he later endorsed for president.
It’s also a little odd that Deal is turning down a chance for Georgia to get back some of the federal tax dollars its citizens pay by refusing to expand Medicaid.
The governor’s action means that the federal taxes you pay will go to a state like New York or New Jersey to pay for the expanded Medicaid coverage they will offer to their residents — but not back to Georgia.
If that seems odd to you, you aren’t alone.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report at gareport.com. His column appears Wednesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com.