Commentary

Bookman: Crank hypocrisy alarm up as Kemp takes credit for Obamacare insurance access

January 20, 2022 1:00 am

Columnist Jay Bookman opines that Gov. Brian Kemp is basically embracing and taking credit for the success of Obamacare, the health insurance program that he and every other Republican predicted would destroy the American health care system. Kemp unveiled his health care plans at a 2019 press conference. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder (File)

Based on the first few days of the Georgia General Assembly, the Republican Party’s 2022 legislative agenda is to outlaw non-citizen voting which is already outlawed, ban “critical race theory” from schools where it already doesn’t exist, bar transgender athletes from high school sports where the rules already say they can’t compete, and combat voter fraud that also doesn’t exist, all while preening about their “bravery” in taking on liberals trying to destroy America.

And oh yeah – they also want to address the fact that in this country we have too few guns readily available to irresponsible, untrained and unvetted people. Their so-called “constitutional carry” provision ought to fix that problem quick as a bullet fired in a road-rage incident.

Honestly, though, it’s a neat trick, especially in an election year. Fake problems are infinitely more susceptible to fake solutions by fake leaders than are real problems, which tend to be complicated and bring the risk of potential failure to those who dare try to fix them.

You know what else is a neat trick? Swooping in to take credit for somebody else’s accomplishment.

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Brian Kemp bragged that as recently as 2019, “Georgia had only four health insurance carriers offering plans in the individual market. Today, we have nearly tripled that number with eleven carriers offering plans for 2022.”

He went on to point out that “in 2019, only 26 percent of Georgia’s counties had more than one carrier offering insurance on the individual market. Now, in 2022, 98 percent of all counties have more than one carrier – which means expanded choice and lowered costs for hardworking Georgians.”

If your hypocrisy alarm is blaring, it ought to be. Without saying the “O word,” Kemp is basically embracing and taking credit for the success of Obamacare, the health insurance program that he and every other Republican predicted would destroy the American health care system, produce ruinously high insurance premiums resulting in the dreaded “death spiral,” and in the process turn us all into Communists. Here in Georgia, GOP officials tried hard to ensure that the program failed, with then-Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens at one point pledging to do “everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

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None of that happened. Last year, Georgia had the fifth highest enrollment total in the country, with 517,000 signing up for Affordable Health Care Act plans. That was up 11% from 2020. Enrollment in 2022 has jumped to 654,000, an increase of 26.5%. Despite all attempts to kill it, Obamacare is working and working well.

And while Kemp wants to credit his 2019 “Patients First Act” for that success, much of his legislation has yet to take effect and probably never will, and the improvements in rates and availability that he cites as the product of his leadership are being experienced in states all over the country, not just in Georgia.

That’s why you no longer hear Republicans pledging to repeal Obamacare. They don’t because it is a success, and because it is popular, so popular that Kemp wants credit for it. It turns out Nancy Pelosi was right when she told voters they needed to wait to see how the legislation worked before condemning it.

Despite that progress, however, Georgia still has the third highest rate of uninsured in the country, because under Republican rule it has steadfastly refused federal offers to expand Medicaid for the state’s working poor. Four years ago, when Kemp first ran for governor, 17 states, including Georgia, still refused Medicaid expansion dollars. Now it’s down to 12. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 452,000 additional low-income Georgians would become eligible for coverage if Georgia took that step.

But it won’t, because our leaders are more interested in fake solutions to fake problems than in actually making life better for the people who pay their salaries.

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Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.

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