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Man without a mandate

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POSTED January 9, 2017 1:09 a.m.

It’s hard to patch together a mandate out of an election that most pollsters believe could have been won, maybe even easily, by another Democrat — Joe Biden, say, or Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. What is his real mandate? Not to elect brainiac women to the White House?

Beyond that, the flailing is already apparent.

“Drain the swamp.” If there was a mandate, surely that was it. But what is the first thing the Republicans do? They stop up that drain for good. “Chutzpah” is the only word to describe the Republicans’ decision that their first act, after picking up their luggage and moving into their offices, should be to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics: Less investigation of corrupt congressmen; that’ll show ‘em! 

Even the president-elect was forced to rebuke them.

But those are small fish compared to the real whale, which is the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump ran on the agenda of repealing Obamacare. Not fixing it — nixing it. So did most Republicans. Now here they are in Washington, with control of both houses and control of the White House just days away — and there is one tiny little problem. 

A new nationwide poll conducted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has found that 75 percent of Americans do not support Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without enacting a replacement.

How’s that for a mandate? Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans disagree with you, and you haven’t even sent the bill to Congress.

That’s the problem, of course: What bill? A bill to lower premiums? Great. How? Actually, repealing Obamacare would raise premiums, potentially by a lot, especially for all you folks with pre-existing conditions, who wouldn’t get coverage anyway. That’s how it worked in the bad old days: Insurance companies admitted to skimming, to taking only healthy people and refusing to write policies at any price for people with even minor issues, particularly if they were over 50. Remember? You couldn’t buy insurance for an individual over 50 with any illnesses at all. Gastritis was enough for you to be disqualified. Meanwhile, if you got insurance and then got sick, it was standard operating procedure to go back to your application and see if they could find even the tiniest mistake (did you forget to mention the purple pill, perchance?) and revoke all your coverage just when you needed it most. Oh, the good old days.

There were no good old days. Or rather, if there were, they were for a very elite few, like members of Congress — not for all those angry white working-class men in Michigan. 

This is not complicated. If everybody is part of the system — young and old, healthy and not-so-healthy -- then we can afford to have everyone pay a reasonable rate. If all the young, healthy people drop out, then the only people left will have to pay exorbitant premiums for coverage. Or insurance companies will have to screen out the sickest, or the most likely to get sick, the way they used to. Or you’ll be stuck in a job you might hate, or might lose, because the only way you can get coverage is through your employer, unless we tell them not to bother providing coverage either.

Will Trump suffer? No, and neither will his Cabinet. That is one of the many excellent things about being a billionaire. Billionaires really are the only people in the world who can afford to get sick. The rest of us need insurance, or a safety net. The Republicans have yet to offer word one as to how they will provide either, and until they do, Obamacare may not look so bad after all. 

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