Unlike President Donald Trump, former United States President Barack Obama is not very active on Twitter. Prior to his tweet in support of Republican Senator John McCain who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, Obama’s most recent Twitter update was posted on June 22, when he mentioned that the issue of healthcare should transcend politics and should be treated as a matter of American character and identity.
The rare tweet by Obama was made at a time when Congressional Republicans pushed a bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, one of the most significant achievements of the Obama administration. Thankfully for millions of Americans, the Better Care Reconciliation Act sought by the Republicans ended up being a political failure that may have been voted down by Senator McCain had he not been in the hospital when the bill fizzled.
One of the main reasons why the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare have failed is that they have been purely political. President Trump does not seem to understand how Obamacare works, but he supports its repeal based on partisan principle. The four Republican Senators who strongly oppose the bill, perhaps five counting Senator McCain, are also against a straight repeal of Obamacare without a replacement. They prefer to see the program left alone based on the following:
- The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 32 million Americans would be left without insurance by 2026 should Obamacare be repealed. The cost of a repeal would result in premium increases of at least 25 percent.
- Leaving Obamacare alone is not just a matter of keeping the status quo; it is an effort to improve the lives of millions of low-income American families for whom healthcare has been challenging. Prior to implementation of Obamacare a few years ago, the number of uninsured US residents, most of them African Americans, stood at 57 million. These days, that number stands at 26 million, or 8.6 percent of the population.
- One of the eternal complaints brought up by Republicans is that Obamacare is expensive due to the government subsidies it provides. Part of this complaint is valid since a little more than 80 percent of those who are enrolled in the program have purchased insurance policies through subsidies. This large percentage includes millions of families who are now insured for less than $100 per month.
- A 2016 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that 63 percent of Americans who support the Republican party also support most of the provisions of Obamacare, particularly the ability of keeping adult children on family policies until they are 26 years old.
- The Center for American Progress estimates that Obamacare has succeeded in providing $11 billion in funding to community health centers across the US. A little more than 25 percent of patients who benefit from these centers are African Americans. Moreover, five million African American women are now enrolled in private health insurance plans that offer prenatal care at no additional cost.
Notwithstanding the above, Obamacare is not a perfect program. The costs of keeping the program afloat are rising faster than expected, although there are no immediate plans to increase individual taxes to cover rising premiums. Some of the alternatives to Obamacare, other than the disastrous proposals pushed by Republicans in 2017, include a massive expansion of Medicare so that it become a single-payer system. Senator Bernie Sanders, a popular figure among the Hispanic and African American communities, is a major proponent of expanding Medicare to all. Another option would be to shore up the VA medical system so that it can also provide community healthcare to low-income families.