BRIAN HOWEY: Turn Obamacare hysteria into ‘tweak and adapt’

2013-06-09T00:00:00Z BRIAN HOWEY: Turn Obamacare hysteria into ‘tweak and adapt’By Brian Howey nwitimes.com
June 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When times change, Americans adapt.

We learn how to be resourceful in the face of adversity, winning world wars and punching into space. The successful among us, be they businesswomen, educators, generals or clergy, have long defied odds and found success because they adapted to new environments, developed corresponding resources, and watched the past recede in their rear view mirrors and the windows of Gemini and Apollo.

Some fail at first, then figure it out and thrive.

Some of us -- the obstinate, the ideologue, the clueless, the impaired, the anarchist, the old-timer -- will not evolve and will fall behind. We've repeatedly seen this success and failure in American history and mankind, from the Reformation, to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, in agrarian society that ranged from the primitive plow to satellite technology, to the Civil Rights movement all the way through the Internet transformation.

I say this in returning to the subject of Obamacare, because it will impact, in some way, just about every one of us.

My column last week wasn't an endorsement of Obamacare. Nor was I "lit up," as one Evansville reader suggested. The point I sought to burnish was this: It's the law of the land. All of the spouting, speculation and dire predictions aren't going to change that fact.

President Barack Obama (or Vice President Joe Biden) will be in the White House until January 2017. Even if Republicans were to retake control of the U.S. Senate in 2014, there is no way that Obamacare will be repealed. And for two election cycles now, voters across America (and here in Indiana) have opted for a Democratic U.S. Senate and re-elected Obama 51-47 percent. I erroneously stated last week that Obama was re-elected with 53 percent, when I meant to say that 53 percent did not support Mitt Romney, who made Obamacare repeal a central part of his campaign.

Republicans talk about electing their nominee as president in 2016, along with a GOP Congress, setting the stage for repeal. But even in that scenario, the massive changes going on right now in all sectors associated with health care will be in the process of adapting to the new dynamic. It will likely be too disruptive to lurch from Obamacare to … what? The way things were before, when a catastrophic illness could bankrupt a family? When businesses small and large, and local governments, were facing skyrocketing health care costs at budget time each year?

Those were not the good old days.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, many of us were heartened that someone like Barack Obama was willing to campaign on the idea of health care reform. As 2010 approached, I watched with considerable consternation how the Affordable Care Act went from the five or six basic principles to the sprawling legislation it became. You can Google me and not find a single column endorsing the final product Obama signed in March 2010.

As a columnist and individual, I aligned more with U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, who suggested during the process that the legislation be broken up into five or six pieces: The ones everyone seemed to agree on, like allowing people with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance, leaving the final bill as the one to hammer out the more contentious parts.

I would have preferred the more market-based solutions many Republicans had espoused, a more consumer-driven approach that emphasized wellness, health savings accounts, tort reform and opening up markets across state lines.

If you had expended the same type of energy and vigor you do against Obamacare to motivating Republicans to install those reforms, we would probably be better off. That was an epic, missed opportunity for which President George W. Bush, White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels, congressional Republicans down to party activists here in the heartland all bear responsibility.

With the repeal of Obamacare having vritually no chance, my advice to Republicans is to change their course to one of "Tweak and Adapt."

In explaining his vote for Obamacare in 2010, then U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly predicted there would be problems that would need to be changed. In anything this large and transformative, course corrections will be necessary. The massive and costly changes to U.S. national security, the military and transportation following 9/11 have been as transformative as what we face now. It was painful, but we adapted, are still making changes, and many businesses have actually prospered.

My challenge to the Hoosier Republican Congressional delegation: What are the likely course corrections? And what are your solutions?

The other challenge here is that instead of the hysteria we've been hearing from our delegation, they really ought to get into a mode where they are helping their constituents adapt. It's probably too early to know, because we don't know for sure what will work and what will need to change.

They have latched on to Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus's "train wreck" remark when it comes to the state health exchanges. That is a 2014 campaign tactic designed to ward off primary challengers. But it undermines and erodes confidence, and whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, that is not responsible governance.

Hoosiers will need statesmen, not primary candidates.

Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @hwypol. The opinions are the writer's.

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