It has been 12 years since Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – better known as ACA or Obamacare – into law. To mark the anniversary, the former commander-in-chief joined President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House to announce a new expansion of the law – by executive action, of course – and to congratulate everyone on a job well done.
As a PR stunt, it went pretty well and probably achieved the goal of boosting morale in the Democratic Party – especially that of the voters. But the former president also revealed something of an open secret during his speech: When conservatives point to progressive agendas as slippery slopes, it isn’t just paranoia.
The Executive Order of Self-Congratulations
The nearly hour-long event was ostensibly dedicated to Biden signing an executive order that “fixes” the “family glitch.” However, each speaker’s time was mainly devoted to either patting Democrats – especially Biden and Obama – on the back for getting ACA across the finish line or extolling the good the law has done since its implementation.
Considering the negligible amount of time spent discussing or signing the order, and how low the Biden administration – and Democratic Party in general – has been in public opinion lately, it was hard to see past the fanfare. Both presidents joked with and praised each other and the many Democrats in Congress who worked hard to make this happen. It worked as a rallying cry to fire up the party’s base going into the election cycle.
No Free Lunch
But, of course, there is that EO Biden signed. According to the president, about five million Americans can’t get financial help to pay for health coverage under Obamacare. The issue, called the family glitch, is that workers who can afford individual coverage from an employer-based plan – that is, if they don’t qualify for assistance in paying for it – can’t get assistance covering the premiums for a family plan. Family coverage, which by definition covers more than one person, quite logically costs more. Just because an employee can afford individual coverage doesn’t mean he or she has the moolah to cover the whole household. And that’s a fair and true statement – there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The ACA has more than doubled health insurance costs for workers and families, with the national average premium increasing 129% from 2013 to 2019, the Heritage Foundation reported in 2021. Sure, the “out of pocket” costs are lower for those who qualify for government assistance, but as a net change, Americans are worse off financially than before. Why? Even those who don’t have to pay the increased costs upfront are still paying on the back end come tax time, or even indirectly through general inflation created by government meddling.
In 2009 and 2010, the year before and the year of the signing of the ACA, the federal government spent around $800 billion in health care costs. In 2011, that number jumped to $900 billion. In 2021, $1.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars went to health care. That’s $700 billion more in a single year – and, in fact, it’s double the rate of tax-funded health care costs in 2008.
Now the president is expanding via executive order the ACA again, and American taxpayers will bear that burden.
Progressivism – The Name Says It All
Another entirely true statement might have been overlooked in all the self-praise and talk of helping poor families. Obama wanted to call Congress to act further and defend the legacy of the health care reform bearing his name in common parlance. What he may not have intended, however, was to reveal the not-so-secret modus operandi of the Democratic Party and the progressive left throughout history.
The former president said that he and other Democrats knew at the time that the ACA wasn’t perfect and that they had, out of necessity, compromised on what they really wanted to get the bill passed. That should come as no surprise – it’s how the legislative process was intended to work. But he always considered such compromise bills like starter homes. You plant your flag or put your foot in the door. Let go of what you have to in order to get a law passed, then come back later and “fill in the gaps.” Make no mistake: Filling in the gaps of the original ACA is precisely what Biden’s executive actions have done and will likely continue to do. But this tactic doesn’t stop at health care; it’s what Democrats have generally used on controversial issues. No wonder folks on the right call those on the left progressives; the secret is in the name itself.
The goal of Democrats in health care, gun control, enforced identity politics, abortion, and other topics in the national debate has always been the same. They’re just willing to chip away at it over time, progressively achieving their goals. When conservatives stand accused of falling into the slippery slope fallacy in arguing against left-wing legislation – when Democrats say they’ve compromised on a bill or that they’re only working toward some goal that falls short of the full measure – remember the words of President Barack Obama. The man spoke truth.