The most exciting part of today’s health care town hall occurred when a transgendered senior asked the President a question about managing chronic health conditions (watch that HERE), but the most effective portion came in the introduction. Echoing the arguments of some Senate Democrats, Obama framed the GOP’s efforts to repeal the health care law as an attempt to take away immediate health benefits:
OBAMA: There are some folks are against health reform in Congress. They still think that none of this should have happened. They don’t think you should be getting these rebates. Don’t think we should be closing this doughnut hole. In fact, you have an entire party out there that’s running on a platform of repeal. They want to roll back all of these reform efforts. They say they have their own plan, but over the last 14 months of debate, they never seriously advanced it. And when you look at it, you can see why.
They would roll back the rebate to help you pay for your medicine, if you fall in the doughnut hole. They’d roll back the free preventive care for Medicare recipients. And away from seniors, they would roll back all of the insurance provisions that make sure that insurance companies are not cheating folks who are paying their premiums. Their plan would let insurance companies continue to deny folks coverage when they get sick. They would do little to make insurance more affordable. They gut the existing consumer protections. They’d put insurance companies back in charge. And some have even filed legislation that would end Medicare as we know it, giving every senior a voucher for health care instead. I refuse to let that happen. We’re not going back. We are going to move forward. That’s why I was elected.
Obama’s remarks highlight the political difficulty of repealing sweeping reforms and create more rift within the Republican party. While the GOP leadership is calling for a partial repeal or a repeal and replace, more conservative activists are pushing for a complete reversal of the law.
The problem for both factions, however, is this: since the majority of the legislation does not kick in until 2014, the GOP’s talking points about ‘bankrupting Medicare’ or the destroying businesses, are a commentary about future projections and events. What the public will experience now are tangible and immediate benefits of reform. The doughnut hole checks. Coverage for uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions. Small business tax credits and extended dependent coverage for young adults. Regardless of their concerns about the feasibility of the law, the GOP’s strategy of repeal will take away popular benefits, a reality the President rightly recognized and will likely reinforce in the weeks and months ahead.