Conservative organizations and Republican candidates are convinced that attacking Democrats for their support of the Affordable Care Act (affectionately known as Obamacare) is the ticket to winning this fall.
The Senate race in Michigan, for example, has a group called Americans for Prosperity dropping millions of dollars on ads attacking Democratic candidate Gary Peters for his support of the ACA. So far this has been done using two anecdotal cases to suggest that the ACA is not affordable. In one case, the family in question, the members of which were once delegates for the Republican Party, could have saved money using the ACA, but instead chose to pay more. The second case, of Julie Boonstra, a Dexter woman, has been widely debated for its accuracy as well.
The question that voters should be asking is this: If Obamacare is indeed so awful and unaffordable, why are its critics having so much trouble finding one person in Michigan who has indisputably been harmed by it? Americans for Prosperity, which aired the ads, spent more than $36 million in the 2012 election cycle.
Perhaps the problem is that the ACA just isn't as bad as its opponents have made it out to be. These are the same people who said the ACA would never enroll 7 million people by the deadline. The same people who said Obamacare would bring death panels. The same people who forecast a big win for Republicans in 2012 based on belief that people hate Obamacare. And the same people who are now claiming the worst is yet to come, despite news to the contrary.
When it comes to the ACA, these groups have been very good at fear mongering but very bad at accurately projecting the results.
Of course that isn't the only thing they have been very bad at when it comes to the ACA.
While many of these organizations and candidates have spent a lot of time on errant prognostications and spreading fear, they have spent almost no time coming up with a solution. Sure, you can find a two-page outline here or there from a couple of Republicans, but you aren't going to replace 2,700 pages of legislation with a two-page outline.
The problem is this legislation already contains a lot of Republican ideas. Market competition, the individual mandate, a payment advisory board, and Medicare cuts were all Republican ideas that eventually ended up in the ACA. Then there are the things that Republicans act like the ACA doesn't include, but it actually does, such as fraud reduction, wellness programs, IT solutions to help eliminate errors, pooling risk, and rewarding quality.
There are also parts of the ACA that people really like that Republicans would need to include in any alternative plan, such as tax credits for small business, preventing people from losing insurance due to pre-existing medical conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents insurance till age 26, closing the donut hole, the expansion of Medicaid, and health care exchanges.
Most of these groups and candidates are well aware of how little ammo they really have against the ACA and they are trying to obfuscate this reality from voters. This means they are stuck discussing fringe rhetoric and pretending a couple handpicked individuals, represent millions of Americans.
While this tactic works well for television commercials, at some point these candidates are going to have to debate their opponent. These debates will expose the void of ideas Republican candidates have to offer, so rather than have that discussion, top Republicans have decided to coalesce around some very basic ideas that boil down to trusting the private sector instead of the public sector.
Republicans had four years to craft an answer to the law they've called the "worst thing since slavery," and the best they could come up with is "private sector good -- public sector bad"? That meme has been the Republican calling card for decades. If "privatize it" represents "new ideas," no wonder Republicans have been forced to resort to half-truths to fight the law.
Unfortunately even this idea has been proven to be more wishful thinking than fact. Outside of the colossal failures of privatized prisons, and school services a study by the Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 occupations, taxpayers spend more, not less to use private companies.
Voters should demand that we do better when it comes to providing all Americans with high-quality, affordable health care. At this point, only one party seems concerned with this objective. Ironically, it's not the party that has made Obamacare the basis of its campaign strategy.