United States

Oct 11, 2017

Rundle: seven years on, Obamacare proves a triumph of progressive politics

Despite its diversions, the implementation of Obamacare was the right move, politically and policy-wise, which generated a class of people -- in their millions -- with something concrete to lose from its removal.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Something important happened at the end of September — or, rather, didn’t happen. On September 30, the “reconciliation” deadline passed in the US Senate — the date by which legislation can be classed as a budget measure, and thus be passed with a simple majority of 51 votes.

September 30 went by, with the vote-of-all-votes unpassed: the Obamacare repeal, which Republicans had been promising since it became law in 2010, a cause that President Donald Trump took up as a centrepiece of his campaign. Two major attempts to craft a repeal-and-replace bill were put to the Senate and failed, due to the refusal of Republican senators John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Rand Paul. A final attempt, known as the Graham-Cassidy plan, looked more threatening, as it was put forward by John McCain’s Senate bromance Lindsey Graham. But McCain would not consent, and it was never even taken to the Senate floor.

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11 thoughts on “Rundle: seven years on, Obamacare proves a triumph of progressive politics

  1. Saugoof

    I always get the feeling that most Republicans, outside of a bunch of nutcases, don’t actually want Obamacare repealed. They know having it is far better than the alternative and that a repeal would seriously hit a massive chunk of their voters. So I think the efforts to repeal have been purposely handled so badly in order to make sure that they’d fail. Having the repeal fail may look bad for the Republicans on the surface, but it’s really a win for them too.

  2. DCParker

    Excellent article which supports the argument, often vehemently opposed by purists that one should not make the “perfect”- the enemy of the “good”. In fact it goes further, in that implementing the good often can provide a pathway to the perfect or at least the “better”. Something reformers everywhere should have to understand.

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      Definitely DCParker. Start with the good, or even the above average, and improve it. Same will have to happen with unwinding the market-faith based policies in Oz that have failed miserably. If you try to fix them perfectly you’ll never get there. Start with the good and improve it along the way.

  3. Wallywonga

    Despite the bizarre political path it has taken, (and a bit of fate?, with McCain’s personal medical issues in the middle of it all), agree with your assessment that it will now probably stand as Obama’s greatest legacy.
    Health has always been one of the US populus’s greatest insecurities, although I have previously had many Joe Average arguments about public health care -told by many that it is “communist”.
    It will be a very brave pollie, federal or state, that willingly allows people to be cut off now. Something the Democrats have got right.
    Lets not forget the Trump fragile ego however, and his detest for Obama. Allowing Obama a major legacy, compared to zero on his scoresheet so far?.

  4. Will

    True. The ACA is most certainly not nothing. But for me, Obama’s bailing out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, doubling down on US imperialism in the Middle East, and abandoning white working class America to Trump are seriously something too. They’re fueling this war against Obama’s legacy that the ACA stands to fall victim to. It’s not that Obama didn’t do anything: I’d argue it’s that he didn’t do enough to guarantee anything. He didn’t leave the Democrats with his own Electoral College majority. Hillary was just the icing on that cake. (i.e. If he could have run again, would he have won again? I really doubt it.)

    1. Wallywonga

      Inclined to agree about Obama generally, did not feel at times that he had any courage of conviction, wanted to be too cool for school. Michelle probably showed more assertiveness. But any form of health care reform in the US is a huge achievement, a great legacy; the power of the health insurance lobby would have made it almost as difficult as gun reform.
      That the Republicans andTrump are not succeeding in repealing it just gilds the success.

    2. AR

      La Klingon the Icing? More like the turd in the punchbowl which is why the Drumpfster is now Prez – “it’s my turn” was not an inspiring.

  5. Draco Houston

    Your argument makes sense but the US political class does not. This half measure was worse for everyone than single payer. It is absurd that it was necessary at all. However, it is easy to turn any subsidizer within the ACA cross-subsidy model into a fan of single payer, just link them our medicare levy. All this for 2% of taxable income, or you can opt out and go private. Combine this with the people that absolutely do not want to lose access to medical care and surely you’d have a lot of people that would support single payer.

    Though that would be pointless if the US political class is going to be so damn weird about this. Widespread support or opposition of something in the electorate does not inevitably result in the same within their ‘representatives’.

  6. Robert Smith

    It’s hard to see successful attempts to expand or even improve the poor points about ACA. Trump & the hard right can use presidential orders & just not enforcing some elements of it to hack away at its’ effectiveness.

  7. Don Willoughby

    Please stop calling it Obamacare. It’s the Affordable Health Act. Obamacare was a name given by the opposing republicans dog whistling their racist supporters. Anything made by a black man can’t be good for their white superiors.

    1. Wallywonga

      That might have been there original intent, but has backfired on them. Obamacare is not derogatory, and has probably stuck because “Affordable Care Act” sounds way too socialist for mainstream America.

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