Commentary: Pouting against health care

Nov 30, 2012

Suppose that Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Tigers, said he refused to accept the result of the World Series. He wasn’t going to accept the San Francisco Giants as champions, despite the fact that they swept his team in four straight games.

That would be nuts. But not much more irrational than what Republicans in the state House of Representatives did yesterday. They stomped their feet, whined, pouted and refused to set up a state-run exchange to help citizens and businesses shop for health care, now that they have to buy it.

This won’t make much difference to the average person, and affects only those who don’t have health care now, as well as small businesses, which now have to offer it to their workers.

The only difference is the federal government, not the state, will be running the system that helps people find health care. While this is being called an exchange, it is actually more like a marketplace, where people can shop for health care policies.

Governor Rick Snyder wanted the state to set up its own exchange. You would think his fellow Republicans would have been all for this. After all, isn’t the GOP against federal control? Well, yes, Republicans are for local control, all right, except when they’re not.

In this case, they handed control of the health care marketplace to the federal government, for one big irrational reason. They don’t like President Obama’s health care law.

They don’t care that it is the law. They don’t care that the U.S Supreme Court has said it is constitutional, and that the voters of the state and the nation ratified it in a national election.

They don’t want to play, and so they have decided to sulk -- turning the administrative functions of health care over to the federal government, whose inefficiency Republicans normally like to denounce. Yesterday, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said, quote, “There were too many unanswered questions for the committee to feel comfortable with a state-run exchange, and we will not have one in Michigan.”

To which a rational person might say, huh? The so-called Obamacare bill was passed more than two years ago, though many of its provisions aren’t yet in effect. Last spring, when the states were setting up health care exchanges, Michigan Republicans said to wait. They expected the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. But it didn’t.

Then other Republicans, including Attorney General Bill Schuette, again told the lawmakers to wait. He predicted that Mitt Romney would be elected and Obamacare would be repealed.

Well, guess what. President Obama won a fairly easy victory nationwide, and what amounted to a landslide in Michigan. Democrats won three-quarters of the seats at stake in the U.S. Senate. “Obamacare” is here to stay.

There were a few sane voices yesterday. Gail Haines, chair of the House Health Policy Committee, had opposed a health care exchange. But yesterday she noted that her side had lost, in the Supreme Court and at the polls, and said it was time to recognize reality. Her fellow Republicans wouldn’t listen.

Instead, they forfeited their chance to give the state a role in how national health care is run.

I wonder why they keep losing elections? 

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.