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December 15th, 2016

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Remember the old knock on presidential candidate John Kerry back in the 2004 presidential election?  “I was for it before I was against it.”Â Â  Today, about the single worst charge that can be made against any conservative Republican politician is that they support Obamacare. President-Elect Trump said during the recent campaign that his first act would be to abolish Obamacare. And the key component is requiring every citizen to buy health insurance.

But here’s the problem for GOP legislators. For decades, the Republican leadership in Washington embraced and championed individual mandates”¦well, that was before they “saw the light,” and flip-flopped against such an Obamacare requirement. As Ricky Ricardo used to say: “Lucy, you got some “˜splainin’ to do.”

The push toward mandated health care began back in the mid 1980s under President Ronald Reagan when he signed legislation that mandated free health care for all who seek it. That law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), was the largest expansion of government mandated health care since Medicare. But from the start, this new law engendered controversy from conservative economists.  Their concern was that the system was not encouraging individual responsibility. Their thinking was that many people would not purchase health insurance, so the taxpayer would get stuck with the medical bills.

From that point on, a whole host of Republican congressional leaders called for mandated health coverage.  Here is House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2007 “” “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.”Â  An “individual mandate” should be applied.

As these comments and many others by Republicans and numerous conservative think tanks have pointed out, there is a strong case for personal responsibility.  Why should a certain portion of the population ignore their healthcare protection, then have an accident or get sick and run to the emergency room for treatment, forcing you and me to pay their bills?  If we have to pay the piper, then why doesn’t everyone?

There is little hue and cry over mandated automobile insurance.  Everyone is required to be insured, so that if you are in an accident, and it’s not your fault, the other guy has to step up to the plate and pay you damages.  What’s fair for one, is fair for all.  Most of us don’t want to subsidize the uninsured driver, so why would we want to subsidize the irresponsible guy who just doesn’t care enough to buy health insurance?  If someone can’t afford the cost, then perhaps there should be a subsidy. But everyone should pay something. That’s called being responsible. And that is why in the past, so many conservative Republicans embraced the individual mandate.

What about property insurance?  Just try to go to a financial institution to borrow money for a new home, or for refinancing.  No property insurance?  Forget it. And the flood insurance itself is highly subsidized by the federal government.  Now catch the irony here.  With health insurance, the insurance company will reject you if you have a pre-existing condition. No subsidy and no coverage.  But for property insurance, it’s just the opposite.  If you live in a part of the country that floods or is prone to hurricanes, your flood insurance is even cheaper because it is subsidized by the government.  Go figure.

Of course party politics plays no role in the current debate.  Yeah, right! Can you envision a Republican Senator looking across the aisle in the nation’s capitol and saying, “Actually, I’m voting against Obamacare even though I’ll vote for most of the provisions that are in it when a Republican is back in the White House.”Â  And you can just hear his Democratic colleague retort, “Well, I’m voting for it, after I voted against it, back when you voted for it, when a Republican was in the White House.”

So now will we be talking about Trumpcare? Is there any wonder why the country is so ensnared in gridlock?


“Gridlock is great. My motto is, “Don’t just do something. Stand there.”

 William Safire

 Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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