Deciphering opposition to health care reform

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One of my all-time favorite episodes of “The Simpsons” was aired way back in 1992. It was called “Homer the Heretic,” and towards the end of the episode, there’s a serious fire in the Simpsons’ home.

After everyone is safe and the fire is put out, an insurance agent asks Homer, “Any valuables in the house?” He replied, “Well, the Picasso, my collection of classic cars…”

The agent replies, “Sorry, this policy only covers actual losses, not made-up stuff.”

I think about that exchange every time I hear Republicans talk about how much they hate the Affordable Care Act – or what they call “ObamaCare” – with the heat of a thousand suns. I’ve followed the health care debate about as closely as anyone, and I’m still not entirely sure why they think the law is a Nazi/communist/alien plot to destroy civilization, and why repeal is such a critical priority.

Sure, they have plenty of talking points – “socialized medicine,” “death panels,” etc. – but I keep feeling the urge to paraphrase Homer’s insurance rep: Sorry, this debate should only cover actual policy concerns, not made-up stuff.

Today, for example, Mitt Romney has an op-ed in USA Today, explain why he’d scrap the existing law. The piece is nearly 700 words long, spanning nine paragraphs, but one has to look pretty hard to find his actual objections to the law he claims to hate. Romney thinks the ACA is a “disaster,” but when it comes to specific concerns, there’s one sentence, towards the very end, that complains about taxes and Medicare (and the budget plan Romney endorsed this week would end Medicare altogether). If the Democrats’ law were really so awful, identifying its flaws should be easier.

It’s not just the op-ed. Romney participated in a Google+ discussion the other day, and said his “list of objections” to the health care law “are long.”

For those who can’t watch clips online, the former governor – who came up with the blueprint for the law he now despises – points to four specific concerns: the Affordable Care Act (1) raises taxes; (2) “cuts” Medicare; (3) “imposes” contraception coverage on Catholics; and (4) costs too much according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Let’s take these one at a time.

First, it’s true that the law includes some tax increases, though it’s only part of the law’s financing.

Second, Romney’s claims about Medicare cuts simply aren’t true.

Third, churches are exempt from preventive-care mandates, and religiously-affiliated institutions won’t have to cover the costs directly.

And fourth, Romney’s claim about the CBO is blatantly false.

In other words, when volunteering his biggest objections to the health care law, Romney raised four complaints, and three of them are ridiculous.

Love it or hate it, the ACA a moderate reform package, designed by those who shaped Romney’s Massachusetts law, and is entirely in line with what moderate Republicans endorsed in the Senate in the 1990s. There’s no socialized medicine, and private insurers remain the backbone of the system.

I consider the law a major breakthrough, but for the right to get so hysterical about it is silly.

So, what is it, exactly, that’s so outrageous about the law? I’m looking for a debate that only covers real problems, not made-up stuff.

Affordable Care Act and Mitt Romney

Deciphering opposition to health care reform

Updated