Congress takes a lot of abuse! Their popularity is at all time lows. Most Americans now claim they would vote even their own representatives out of office. They never cooperate with the other party! Well, maybe that claim isn’t quite accurate. In fact, I think they cooperate all the time! Let’s look at one example of a program where the parties in Washington have done a wonderful job of working with each other to divide and conquer the difficult issues facing the country!
We’ll look at Obamacare or, as it is more formally known, ACA. (Note – Because many people like ACA but hate Obamacare, I need to clarify that they are in fact the same thing. Sorry). I’ll call it ACA because that’s easier to type. This is the president’s signature program and illustrates what Congress can accomplish when they really put their hearts into it.
The original goal of ACA was to provide affordable health insurance to most of the 15% (47 million) of Americans who are uninsured. The short-term goal is 7 million by March 2014 and an estimate of about 16 million by year-end 2014 in a combination of Medicaid and ACA with the rest coming over time. Note that about 12 million of the 47 million are illegal immigrants and not eligible. To date, the results are unknown. They can’t be until initial sign-ups are completed in December. So both parties agreed to make up their own facts and distort the few honest projections that exist. Problem solved!
ACA is intended to have the work and administration done by the private sector with the rules being set by the feds. Thus, all uninsured Americans will need to purchase a health care insurance policy from a private carrier. All private carriers will stop “rating up” individuals for pre-existing conditions and will give up the ability to decline coverage. That creates a larger group of insured people. To the extent that people who are uninsured actually participate, there is a downward pressure on the price of insurance. However, the feds also set rules on the minimum coverages for individual plans as well as ending rating for pre-existing condition and requiring guaranteed issuance. They chose a minimum coverage that is a good deal higher than many people were voluntarily choosing. (In the interest of full disclosure, the selection of a “floor” preceded Congress’ new program of cooperation. It occurred during the passage of the law which was a fully partisan event and includes all the Democrat’s pet health issues like mental health, preventive medicine and erectile dysfunction). Not that these are bad coverages but their mandatory inclusion in all policies can only be an upward force on price. As part of their agreement, the Congressional Republicans agreed only to talk about the upward pressures while the Democrats agreed to deal only with the downward pressures. That gives each of them own set of talking points. It also avoids the ugly prospect of talking to each other about how both their positions might be true. That, after all, might offend the base voters that the politicians so carefully selected through redistricting.
Also, as was evident in the inquisition of Kathleen Sibelius this week, the parties agreed to split up the “bad guys”. The Republicans agreed to put all the blame on Obama and the Democrats who passed the bill (more than three years ago) without a single Republican vote. The Democrats agreed to blame the IT contractors and insurance companies. Both agreed not to do a real investigation into the true causes of the website malfunctions. To do that of course would require waiting for the facts to become known and that would delay the theater.
The final part of the cooperation pact was to avoid discussing why both parties have done nothing substantive in over three years to fix or to test the suspected problems in ACA. That agreement gave the Republicans over forty opportunities to pass symbolic and pointless votes to repeal ACA without having to help their constituents by improving it. The Democrats gained the chance to stay in the background and not have to appear as though they were criticizing the plan that they wrote.
So, far from disagreeing about everything, the parties in Washington are actually working in close cooperation by agreeing not to tread on their rivals’ turf and to continue living in their own, separate virtual worlds.