We can only hope local Republican leaders will soon get over any smug celebration of Oklahoma’s election results, recognize how they and others in their party seriously miscalculated the election’s national outcome and finally come to terms with the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative pundit after conservative pundit predicted a Mitt Romney landslide in the election as they isolated themselves in a Fox News/Rush Limbaugh bubble that is as laughable as it is tragic. Romney’s huge landslide was then supposed to lead to the immediate repeal of the ACA. Oklahoma, of course, did give Romney a landslide and extended state Republican gains in the House and Senate, but we’re out of step with a majority of the electorate.
President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, known derisively as “Obamacare,” wasn’t the election bugaboo Oklahoma Republicans wanted it to be. GOP leaders here have wasted valuable time and money by filing a lawsuit against it and declining money to implement it.
Just as Democrats must accept that Republicans have super majorities in both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature so do Republicans here need to accept the idea that Obamacare is here to stay. It’s the law. American voters had a chance to get rid of Obamacare, and they chose not to do so.
This means two things need to happen right now. Oklahoma should accept an expansion of the Medicaid program and either create a health insurance exchange as mandated by the ACA or work amicably with the federal government as it does so.
So far, post-election, Fallin has again delayed a decision on these matters. She has no excuse. Obama’s Electoral College rout, 332 to 206, has clearly given him a mandate to implement his health care legislation. What politics are there left to play?
It’s true the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that states don’t have to accept the expansion of the Medicaid program to people at or below 133 percent of the poverty rate, but the federal government will pay all the costs for three years and then gradually make states pay only 10 percent of the cost.
Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, argue the expansion will cost too much, but this ignores the long-term savings of expanding basic medical care and providing preventative care to a broad swath of American people.
The exchange will allow people to purchase health insurance at competitive prices and thus increase the number of people who are insured. This drives down medical costs for everyone, too. Unfortunately, Fallin, under pressure from extremists in her own party, rejected $54 million in federal funding to help set up the exchange and now she has until Nov. 16 to decide whether the state will do it on its own or simply let the federal government will do it.
Of all Republican leaders here, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt perhaps miscalculated the most when he filed suit on behalf of Oklahoma against the ACA. The Supreme Court, with a majority of conservative justices, has upheld the individual mandate provision in the ACA and now voters have reelected Obama to a second term. The energy and state money Pruitt has expended on this political nonsense should be controversial, but it’s highly unlikely Republicans, who control the state government, will hold him accountable.
At issue here is, again, math. Obama consistently led in most polls conducted in battleground states throughout the election. Most prominent Democrats never publicly gloated and recognized the capricious nature of “odds,” but mathematicians, such as Nate Silver of The New York Times, were consistent in predicting Obama’s victory. Meanwhile, Republicans—from U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe to conservative pundit Dick Morris—predicted a Romney landslide. They simply didn’t do or couldn’t do the math.
Republicans here are not doing the math on the ACA either. The math is to expand the number of people who are insured to drive down health care costs for everyone. The math is to catch medical problems earlier before they develop into major, expensive illness. The math is to pool resources to benefit everyone. There is an algorithm for each of these items.
Oklahoma Republicans can isolate the state further through smug, petulant ideology and false arrogance, but it’s clear Obamacare is the law of the land and will remain so.
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