While the election is over, the work that needs to be done continues. As President Obama said in his victory speech on election night, The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. I think that was a big part of the problem during his first term – only the tea party folks took this to heart. This time the rest of us need to do so. We need to stay involved and keep communicating with our elected officials and move the discussion and the country back to the middle.
There are currently two issues that we need to lobby with our elected representatives. One is a federal issue and one a state issue. The federal issue is the fiscal cliff. We, especially with our tea party representative, Marlin Stutzman, need to make him understand that a balanced approach is needed to fix America’s current financial crisis. I spoke recently with someone in his office and only got political speak, i.e., we don’t have a taxing problem, we have a spending problem. Actually, we have both problems and it will take compromise to fix this and our representatives, especially Stutzman, need to understand that includes them and their GOP tea party colleagues.
The state issue is Indiana’s response to the health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Gov. Mitch Daniels, following Gov.-elect Mike Pence’s lead, has determined that Indiana will not set up a state exchange through which individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance as will be required under the Affordable Care Act in 2014. This is despite the fact that there are many hundreds of thousands of Indiana citizens and small businesses who will use the exchange that the federal government will now set up. Pence says the cost of administering the exchange is his primary reason. Nonsense! I suspect his radical tea party views are the real reason that he and some other Republican governors will continue to work to obstruct the Affordable Care Act to the detriment of their citizens, especially their corporate citizens.
I hope that the several millions of dollars of federal tax money that Daniels got to explore setting up a state exchange will not be wasted. I also think that Pence owes us an explanation of his decision not to follow the law and an explanation of why he decided to abdicate his responsibility since management of insurance is clearly a state function. That will not be the case in Indiana since the federally facilitated exchange that we will have will be controlled by federal officials, not Indiana officials. Perhaps that is for the best since I expect that a Pence administration will do all it can do to continue to obstruct implementation of the Affordable Care Act. However, with the re-election of Obama, it looks as if all that time and money that the conservative Republicans spent on that effort was simply wasted. That’s got to burn.
More important than Pence’s refusal to follow the law and fulfill Indiana’s obligation to regulate insurance is what I expect will be his refusal to expand Medicaid as provided under the Affordable Care Act. He will do this despite federal taxpayers paying 100 percent of the cost of that expansion for the first three years and never less than 90 percent of that cost forever. That percentage is far higher than the federal taxpayers’ portion currently paid for Medicaid in Indiana.
Make no mistake, that decision will lead to the unnecessary suffering and death of many Indiana citizens. In addition, it is likely to lead to Indiana’s being less attractive to employers than states that do expand their Medicaid coverage and get all that federal taxpayer money. That’s because employers might find themselves paying higher penalty taxes under the Affordable Care Act because their low-wage employees won’t be able to afford the health coverage that the employer will be required to provide in 2014.
The Affordable Care Act has been the law for more than 2 1/2 years. It is time for conservative Republicans to stop obstructing implementation and begin working with health care providers and the federal government on its implementation, and it’s time for all of us to make those Republicans do just that.