Well beneath the level of congressional argument over the Affordable Care Act, there is a reality that Capitol Hill needs to see. Ordinary people in places such as Wallowa County have gained benefit from the ACA. Kathleen Ellyn’s front page story illustrates two things. It depicts the predicament of one local woman, who can be described as among the working poor – both she and her husband have full-time employment. The story also shows the dramatic, positive effect the ACA is having on the financial condition of hospitals – especially rural hospitals.
There is a reason why hospital associations and hospitals across the nation are nervous about just how Congress will revamp the ACA. That is because the ACA has markedly reduced the money hospitals must spend on charity and uncompensated care.
After complaining about what they prefer to call Obamacare, Republicans now have the power to repeal it. But they recognize that repeal, without replacement, is an untenable proposition. Through congressional town halls across the country, members of Congress have come face to face with persons whose lives have been made better by the ACA.
It has long been clear that the ACA needs improvement. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has been candid on that point. Sen. Wyden and Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah had an alternative to President Obama’s proposal. It is a pity that the Obama White House would not give a hearing to the Wyden-Bennett bill, especially because it could have gained bipartisan support.
But here we are in 2017. In the ensuing drama, Rep. Greg Walden will play a huge role, as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
It is unfortunate that politicians become hostages to their own rhetoric, but that will always be so. In this case, Republicans’ myopic obsession with repeal created an illusion which they apparently believed. Now, with the responsibility of leadership, they cannot repeal the ACA without a reasonable replacement – one that does not make worse the situations of persons who live in places like Wallowa County. And they must not cause the financial situations of rural hospitals to deteriorate.