This column by ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara was published on February 19, 2014 on The American Spectator website.
Personal matters have led me to spend more time in Southern California recently. There my eyes have been opened to new developing trends in American culture with political implications.
On my last trip a few weeks ago, I discovered that California Hispanics, who have effectively been convinced that Barack Obama is America’s first Hispanic President, have been telling their fellow citizens that Obamacare is the greatest thing that has happened to them in a long time. That is because Obamacare enabled the poor for the first time to go to the hospital, they say. Before Obamacare, the poor in America who tried to seek treatment and care in hospitals were just turned away, they uniformly report. This viewpoint has now reached the status of legend in the barrios of California.
Those who know something about U.S. health care policy would say, hey, wait a minute. America has spent trillions on the Medicaid program since it was first adopted fifty years ago in 1965, currently about $500 billion a year. That program precisely spent all that money on health care for the poor, probably most of it in hospitals.
Moreover, since the 1990s at least, federal law has required hospitals to provide health care to everyone who shows up in their emergency rooms, regardless of whether they can demonstrate ability to pay, even for those with no health insurance coverage. All those Hispanic mothers now singing this paean to Obama gave birth to their children in California in hospitals, just like the rich, white Anglos.
I am sure these Hispanics would respond to me by saying what do you know about the poor in California? You are a rich, white Anglo.
What is most important and ominous about this is not the ignorance it displays about health care and health policy in America before Obamacare. What is most important and ominous is what it reveals about the legacy of President Obama.
Most conservatives are certain that President Obama will be remembered in the future as a dismal failure. The worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. The slowest economic growth and job growth since the Depression. Declining middle class incomes, soaring poverty, accelerating inequality.
You will surely be able to add to that before he leaves office the breakout of Iranian nuclear weapons, and the worldwide proliferation of nukes in response to that. And the results for Israel? God only knows. Of course, Obama says in his speeches that he is for a world without nuclear weapons. See the pattern here? Whatever he says he is for, the results for America are just the opposite.
That goes back to before Obama was elected President. He burst on the national scene telling us he represented an end to the partisan “bickering” in Washington, and a focus in national policy on the practicalities of what works rather than rigid ideology unconnected to reality. But he has been the most partisan President in modern times, with no bipartisan accomplishments to his credit. And the most ideological and impractical.
And the opposite of everything he promised about Obamacare turned out to be true as well. Instead of health insurance costs declining, they have risen, sharply for millions of Americans. Instead of universal health insurance for all Americans, more have lost their health insurance policies as Obamacare has gone into effect than have gained new insurance coverage. Instead of “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” the result has been if Obama liked your health insurance, and it met his Obamacare standards, you could keep it.
But rest assured that in a few short years you will learn more about America before Obama than you ever knew existed. Because it didn’t.
You will learn not only that the poor couldn’t go to the hospital before Obamacare. You will learn that the sickest Americans could not get health insurance coverage anywhere (because of their pre-existing conditions). You will learn that women had to get permission from their employers before they could get contraceptives. You will learn that insurance companies routinely terminated coverage of the insured once they got sick (which actually has been illegal under federal law since the Kennedy-Kassebaum legislation in the 1990s, under state law before that, and under the common law before that, except under federally regulated employer provided coverage, where insurers could refuse to renew policies when they came up for annual renewal).
You will learn that for decades only the richest prospered, while the standard of living for all other Americans stagnated (until the American people recognize that has been the result of Obama policies, not the antecedent). You will learn that working people were losing their right to join a union, until Obama saved them. You will learn that America would have spiraled downward into another Great Depression, if we hadn’t been saved by the brilliance of Obamanomics. And you will learn that the cause of the financial crisis was actually Ronald Reagan and his policies after all.
Liberal/Left academics will join the Democrat controlled media citing each other to paint these false fairy tales. Just like they have about the 1930s. Countering these Grimm’s fairy tales with the truth is going to be the new battle for conservatives post-Obama (assuming he voluntarily leaves office when his term is over).