Democrats are ly­ing about health care

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - ed ROGERS — Ed Rogers is a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant and a vet­eran of the Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush White Houses and sev­eral na­tional cam­paigns. This col­umn first ap­peared in The Washington Post.

In Novem­ber of ev­ery even-num­bered year since at least 1970, the big­gest lie in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has been Democrats claim­ing that Repub­li­cans are go­ing to take away So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Repub­li­cans learned to live in a de­fen­sive crouch and to try to avoid men­tion­ing the words “So­cial Se­cu­rity.” Now the new lie is about health care, mostly that Repub­li­cans are go­ing to take away cov­er­age for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

As usual, the truth is very dif­fer­ent. The Se­nate Repub­li­can Pol­icy Com­mit­tee ex­plained in a May 2017 pa­per that un­der the Repub­li­can-backed al­ter­na­tive to Oba­macare, the Amer­i­can Health Care Act, “no one will be de­nied cov­er­age be­cause of a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion.”

Even if you are skep­ti­cal of Repub­li­can talk­ing points, you don’t have to look very far to find ob­jec­tive con­fir­ma­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Fac­, “Sen. [Charles E.] Schumer [D-N.Y.] ... was wrong to say, as he did on the Se­nate floor April 28, that the bill goes ‘back to the day when in­surance com­pa­nies could deny cov­er­age to those with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.’ ”

And oh, by the way, the Democrats are the ones who pushed for Oba­macare’s bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions and ex­pen­sive manda­tory cov­er­age, which up­ended the health-in­surance mar­ket.

I don’t think Democrats specif­i­cally want pa­tients to pay more out of pocket, but Oba­macare re­quired it and helped put us in this un­for­tu­nate po­si­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Health Af­fairs, nearly 90% of in­di­vid­ual en­rollees in Oba­macare plans in 2015 had de­ductibles above $1,300, which met the def­i­ni­tion of a high-de­ductible plan, ac­cord­ing to the IRS. By lim­it­ing con­sumer choice and man­dat­ing un­needed ser­vices, the Democrats di­rectly at­tacked mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans — not Repub­li­cans. Full stop.

Repub­li­cans haven’t been able to fully re­peal and re­place Oba­macare, but they have worked to re­v­erse neg­a­tive trends. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port Thurs­day from the Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices, “the av­er­age pre­mium for sec­ond low­est cost sil­ver plans (SLCSP) for the 2019 cov­er­age year will drop by 1.5%, the first time av­er­age pre­mi­ums have dropped since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Fed­er­ally-fa­cil­i­tated Ex­change in 2014.”

That doesn’t mean the bat­tle is over, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t need bet­ter cov­er­age op­tions in Amer­ica. But Democrats don’t have any an­swers.

A Pew poll pub­lished in late Septem­ber showed that health care was the sec­ond most im­por­tant is­sue to vot­ers at the time, next only to the Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion, and ahead of the econ­omy. Democrats lost on the Supreme Court, and vot­ers credit Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the Repub­li­can Congress for the boom­ing econ­omy. But Repub­li­cans could suf­fer if they can’t make health care an eco­nomic is­sue and it be­comes more of a cen­tral is­sue that re­ally drives votes in Novem­ber. So, it is easy to see why Democrats are at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans on it.

In their re­cently re­leased “For the Peo­ple” agenda, Democrats crit­i­cize Trump for not do­ing enough to com­bat what they de­scribe as “soar­ing” drug prices. But even as we speak, Repub­li­cans are work­ing to shore up re­forms and fix prob­lems in the sys­tem. Of course, it got hardly any cov­er­age, but just this week Trump signed into law two bills that make it eas­ier for pa­tients to learn about the true costs of their pre­scrip­tions. Un­sur­pris­ingly, few Democrats could be spot­ted be­hind the pres­i­dent at Wed­nes­day’s sign­ing cer­e­mony.

Democrats can’t ac­cept that the hall­mark of the Obama years — Oba­macare — has been a flop and is be­ing taken apart piece by piece. And they will do any­thing to use the health-care is­sue against Repub­li­cans. No lie is too big.

Repub­li­cans don’t want to take away your health care or leave peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions with­out cov­er­age. If Democrats will lie to you about this, they will lie to you about other things.

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