State Sen. Patrick Anderson recently joined the cacophony of Republican voices in Oklahoma urging the governor to thumb her nose at the President by refusing to implement ObamaCare.
Anderson, an Enid attorney, is one of the upper chamber's brightest members -- and typically among its most independent. In fact, he's occasionally landed in hot water with GOP leadership for failing to parrot the party line.
Not this time. He delivered an Academy Award performance with his flawless recitation of the Republican's anti-Affordable Care Act talking points, urging Gov. Mary Fallin not to submit to the evil federal scheme.
As one who's covered American politics for four decades, I am rarely surprised anymore by the rhetoric I hear. But I have retained the capacity to be disappointed.
"Can you believe (Anderson) said that?" I asked a politically connected friend. "He's smarter than that."
"Yes," my friend deadpanned, "but his constituents aren't."
That is one of the most baffling aspects of the thunderous anti-ObamaCare drumbeat in Oklahoma -- and elsewhere.
When rank-and-file Americans -- people like Anderson's constituents -- are polled on the individual elements of Obama's signature program, they give thumbs up.
No more denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions? Wonderful! Allowing children to remain on their parents' policies until age 26? Hooray! Closing the prescription drug doughnut hole for seniors? Brilliant!
But when you ask Oklahomans -- and residents of just about every Red State in America -- about ObamaCare, the reaction is visceral: utter disdain and contempt, widely regarded as a cataclysmic event that threatens the world as we know it.
It is understandable that even smart, thinking Republican legislators would not want to stand against this tsunami of illogic. Even those like Anderson who won re-election this year without opposition. It's simply easier to go with the flow rather than risk scorn seriously discussing the act's merits and demerits.
What makes the one-sided nature of the discourse here in Oklahoma so disheartening, though, is that we live in a state where health outcomes are routinely in the nation's bottom five, something we'd never tolerate from our beloved collegiate football programs.
This is a state where 600,000 -- nearly one in five -- go without health insurance, including thousands of children.
SEN. Patric Anderson
But there is no free lunch. When the uninsured get sick -- and visit the world's most expensive doctor's office: the hospital emergency room -- someone pays for their medical care.
That someone is us.
As taxpayers, we underwrite Medicaid, the government-created health insurance program for the poor. As individuals with private health insurance, we pay ever-soaring premiums that help subsidize the unreimbursed care hospitals and health providers.
Like many in middle age, I carry a few extra pounds, but my overall health is excellent. No major concerns. Same with my wife. Even so, our monthly premiums are in house payment territory -- north of $1,000 a month. That doesn't include out-of-pocket expenses that begin with a $2,500 deductible.
We have a dear friend in western Oklahoma who suffers from Lupus and whose son battles disabilities caused by a serious automobile accident. Her monthly premium exceeds $5,000.
Little wonder so many simply decide to roll the dice on their health care, knowing the emergency room cannot turn anyone away. Of course, by the time most reach that crisis care point, the cost of treating the long-ignored problem skyrockets.
Imagine how much could be saved and how much healthier we all could be if routine check-ups and exams weren't themselves backbreakers financially for the middle class and working poor.
Yet here we are -- with someone finally trying to do something about the industrial world's most expensive health care costs -- and our elected leaders devote themselves instead to partisan politics.
All President Obama did is coax through Congress and sign into law what was once the Republican Party's signature health care reform plan.
A plan almost identical to the one GOP nominee Mitt Romney steered into law in Massachusetts when he was governor -- and that has proven highly successful.
A plan that would expand Medicaid coverage -- an estimated 180,000 more of Oklahoma's working poor would be covered -- without burdening an already cash-strapped state government (Fact: The Feds pick up more than 90 cents of every dollar spent on the expansion between 2014 and 2020).
A plan that even an ultra-conservative Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court concluded was constitutional. Activist judges, alas, are in the eyes of the beholder.
And instead of searching for ways to make this work ... and to reduce health care cost burdens on the middle class and working poor ... and on small business owners (like me), Republicans -- and a few of their mugwump Democratic sidekicks (you know who you are Rep. Dan Boren) -- play politics.
Isn't it telling that U.S. House Republicans voted for the 33rd time last week to roll back the law? Thirty-three times! Thirty-three times even though they knew it would have no practical effect because the Democratic-controlled Senate would never agree. And even if it did, Obama would veto it -- and there wouldn't be enough votes to override.
This is grammar school-style theatrics, if you ask me. Did you ever think you'd live to see the day Congress is held in lower esteem than snake-oil televangelists?
Not to chase rabbits, but while the U.S. House busied itself 33 times making the point it opposes ObamaCare, what steps did it take to put jobless Americans back to work? To reign in Wall Street financial abuses and hold accountable those who took our financial system to the brink of collapse? To serve as a watchdog over Pentagon spending?
Now our state elected leaders are working overtime to pander to this visceral opposition to ObamaCare, the facts be damned.
And that strategy's worked so well for us so far.
Gov. Fallin accepted, then rejected $54 million from the Feds to offset the cost of establishing a health insurance exchange, gambling the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately would toss the Affordable Care Act. Oops!
The state now is under the gun to establish the exchange -- which will help rank-and-file Oklahomans compare health insurance options and secure coverage that best fits their needs and pocketbooks -- by year's end. Otherwise, the federal government can impose an exchange.
ObamaCare isn't perfect. Rare is the legislation that doesn't need tinkering and refining, often years after it first was passed.
The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. And it will help many Oklahomans who are currently abused by a system that all-too-often destroys them financially at the same time it rewards insurance companies with record profits.
Hmmm. You don't suppose some of those profits find their way into campaign contributions for those bleating the loudest against ObamaCare? Surely not.
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