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Monday, March 22, 2010

Please, Call it "Obamacare"

Album cover - 'Ronald Reagan speaks out against socialized medicine'
Write those letters now. Call your friends, and tell them to write them. If you don't, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day... we will awake to find that we have so­cialism. And if you don't do this, and if I don't do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free.
-Ronald Reagan, urging voters to act against the passage of Medicare

As Republicans rail against creeping socialism, it's apparently already too late -- about 45 years too late. According to conservative icon Ronald Reagan, the United States went fullblown Marxist when Medicare passed in 1965.

What can we learn from Reagan's warning? For one thing, that hyperbole looks especially stupid as history moves on. For another, that the "slippery slope" argument is always horsecrap, because it involves crystal ball gazing. For yet another, it proves that Republicans either don't have the courage of their convictions or don't believe the things they say; Reagan never pushed for the repeal of Medicare, he left America to the socialist nightmare of singlepayer health insurance for seniors. Mr. "Morning in America" had previously argued that Medicare would be sunset in America. Remember that as other conservatives lament the passage of healthcare reform in the House of Representatives last night; they were wrong the last time, too.

The effects of this bill will be felt immediately. Many provisions won't kick in until 2014, but Reuters has a great breakdown of what's in the bill -- including what happens this year:

Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.

Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.

Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.

A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.

Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the "doughnut hole" coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.

A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.

And, explaining house minority leader John Boehner's fierce opposition to the bill, "A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1."

Clearly, this bill might as well have been written by Kim Jong-Il.

On the right, the meltdown has already begun. As part of a last minute deal to get passage, Rep. Bart Stupak dropped his opposition to the bill over abortion coverage. In exchange for his vote -- and the vote of other anti-choice Democrats -- Stupak accepted an executive order that goes nowhere near as far as his amendment would have gone. Basically, the order states that government has to abide by existing law. In other words, Stupak and company caved. As Bart Stupak spoke in defense of the healthcare bill the chamber just passed, an unknown Republican shouted out "Baby killer!" Classless.

So, now it's a baby-killing, Marxist government takeover of healthcare. What are Republicans going to say when all this crazy stuff doesn't come to pass -- when the US doesn't turn Soviet, when there aren't any "death panels," when abortion rates don't skyrocket? Nothing, of course. They won't say a thing. They never do. Reagan pushed his crazy anti-Medicare fearmongering, then denied he ever did so. When Carter brought it up in a debate, Reagan's response was that famous "There you go again" line. He said he wasn't so much against the goals of Medicare, as he was in favor of alternate legislation.

So they'll freak out for a little bit. Maybe launch a doomed and half-hearted campaign to repeal healthcare reform. But I can practically guarantee that, as time goes on, one bit of rhetoric will die off -- conservatives will stop referring to it as "Obamacare." None of the things the GOP is warning of will happen and people will come to rely on these reforms in their everyday lives. Imagine if Medicare were most widely known as "LBJcare" and you can see why I say Republicans will stop using "Obamacare." Hell, Democrats should embrace that language and try to keep it going for as long as they can.

History shows that Republicans can say crazy things without consequence. I think we can change that.


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