Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

November 4, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: Festering partisanship and the sins of Obamacare

New poll says 63% are ready to replace their congressman.

As Obama-care careens into its second month of imple-mentation, the one conclusion I am coming to is that we may have lost the ability to govern ourselves. My faith in government is eroding like a sand castle on a Lake Michigan dune.

In surveying the eroded leadership, partisan grandstanding, polarization and policy sclerosis, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats told me recently he is concerned by this loss of faith. Pew Research found just 19 percent trust the federal government, near an all-time low. “That’s a dangerous thing for democracy when you lose the opinion of people and institutions who sent you,” Coats observed. “That is a very dangerous thing.”

In the decade leading up to the Affordable Care Act, I was personally confronted with my station on the “death spiral,” an insurance industry connotation for someone with a pre-existing condition it did not want to serve. We watched as businesses and local governments — large and small — grappled with escalating health costs.

As a journalist, I’ve covered four separate chapters in health care reform. The first was Doc Bowen’s 1988 catastrophic health plan, which President Reagan signed into law; as public opinion collapsed, Congress repealed it. Five years later came first lady Hillary Clinton’s complicated initiative that couldn’t muster support in Congress. It is fascinating that in its opposition to Hillarycare, the conservative Heritage Foundation created another option, and after gathering dust on the shelf for almost a decade, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney implemented what we now call “Romneycare,” generally deemed a success. That became the template for Obamacare, which Heritage opposes with historic vitriol.

Between the collapse of Hillarycare and the election of Barack Obama in 2008, little happened nationally to contain the escalating medical costs or include tens of millions of hard-working Americans — be they business owners or individuals — who could not access the system. In this time span — between 2001 and 2007 — Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. All that was accomplished in this era was the greatest entitlement expansion since the Great Society — Medicare Prescription Plan D — essentially a component of President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. After a fiasco rollout, it has since been deemed a success.

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