Obamacare opponents madder and more isolated

Say you’re part of a family of four with an annual income of $40,000 and no health insurance. Now you’re eligible for an annual $10,000 subsidy to buy insurance, with no co-pays for preventive care. And you can shop for your insurance on a website set up by your state.

Or you’re a senior on Medicare who now has free checkups. More of your prescription drug costs are covered, and by 2020 the “donut hole” will be closed.

Perhaps you’re planning on opening a small business and want health care coverage. Because you had cancer, now in remission for nearly 10 years, you’ve been afraid to leave your job, which has insurance. Now insurance companies can’t turn you away, and if the cancer returns, there will be no lifetime limit on health benefits. Starting out with a few employees, your new business can get tax credits to buy them health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act has these provisions, and these details matter.

Knowing these specifics makes it especially odd to hear Gov. Paul LePage say in his  public apology for those Gestapo and Holocaust comparisons, “If Obamacare is implemented no longer will we be known as the country where one is afforded the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Putting aside the governor’s most offensive rhetoric for a moment, his statements on Obamacare remain outlandish and off the mark.

Somehow we are to believe that these policy elements — subsidizing health care, creating websites to buy private insurance, regulating insurance companies and giving tax credits to businesses – are harbingers of an America less free.

LePage’s latest apology explained that he talked about Nazism to “express what can happen by overreaching government. I fear we have a federal government that is moving toward a socialist state and we must not forget history because if we do we are bound to repeat it.”

Somehow we are to believe that this law — based on the plan developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, with a model crafted by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (no socialist) now implemented in another New England state, and using a mix of public and private insurance — promotes tyranny.

Before this apology, LePage said the IRS was “the new Gestapo” and that the agency wasn’t that bad yet.

Somehow we are to believe that there is something perilous about using tax returns to get credits and deductions (or not get them and thereby pay more), yet Americans do this for mortgage interest, energy-efficient appliances and medical and childcare “advantage accounts.”

When asked “whether the IRS ‘was headed in the direction of killing a lot of people,’ LePage answered: ‘Yeah,’” due to “rationing.”

Somehow we are to believe that a law requiring insurance companies to cover more and enabling tens of millions of people without insurance to have it now will lead to less care — and to believe the IRS, which doesn’t involve itself in medicine, will ration care.

Clearly LePage is very upset. After conservatives said many times that the Affordable Care Act is unprecedented and unconstitutional, they are probably shocked it was upheld. (Neither was true. That’s why, before the oral arguments at the Supreme Court, nearly all legal scholars and constitutional lawyers predicted the law would be upheld.)

Republican Maine Rep. Richard Cebra, invoking untruths, seemed even angrier than LePage, writing in all capital letters on Facebook, “WHAT ABOUT THE DEATH PANELS? WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE BEING IMPRISONED FOR NOT BUYING INSURANCE?”

Meanwhile the politics of health care are shifting. Broad rhetoric has been overtaken by attention to specific provisions, leaving Obamacare’s strongest opponents madder and more isolated.

Since the court’s decision, support for Obamacare has gone up. No one thinks the law is perfect, but Democrats are running campaign ads criticizing incumbent congressional Republicans for voting against the law and its most popular provisions. Citizens are learning about mandate myths. Some may have looked at nonpartisan information or peeked at mahealthconnector.org, the Massachusetts health insurance exchange.

While LePage predicts tyranny, the most prominent Maine Republicans on the November ballot – Charlie Summers and Kevin Raye – haven’t said anything at all about LePage’s words. As people increasingly like Obamacare, they and other politicians will have to discuss the details that matter.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.