Indeed, I am an online player and pride myself on being able to read people and situations well. The actions of betting, raising, or folding tell a revealing story based on both the current situation, the cards on the board, and the actions they have taken in the past. In other words, the context of what people do and have done is most important in deciphering the truth. So, let's use that skill to figure out something that often seems impossible to grasp or even begin to fully comprehend: Politics.
Once again, America finds itself embroiled in a debate about the nature of how healthcare is provided to its citizens. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, rhetoric has been high and vitriolic in nature. As we all know, as a minority party, it is easy to declaim what the other side is doing. Nearly every conservative candidate over the past few years has decried in one form or another, "we must repeal Obamacare! Obamacare is a runaway train toward our country's ruin!" Even die hard conservatives have to be fatigued from hearing this over and over for the better part of a decade. Yes, we all know. Obamacare is the devil, blah blah blah blah.
We got so used to hearing this talk that, for some people, it became a misunderstood reality. But hey, it didn't matter.. it's not like Republicans could actually repeal the ACA. The Democrats had a firm grasp on the presidency and were/are projected to regain seats in both the House and Senate over the next few elections. Then, in the 2016 election, the Democrats experienced the worst night of their lives, not-so-affectionately known as Trumpocalypse.
And now, Republicans find themselves in power. As a result, there is immense pressure on them to make good on a promises they made to their base constituents over the years. Ruh roh, the chickens have come home to roost.
The majority party is now finding it impossible to just be rid of something that appears to be mostly popular among the American public. Of course, the bill has only recently become really popular. It's just basic human nature, if you want to test how much people really like something, threaten to take it away. The fact is, millions of Americans now benefit from the ACA, even if they don't fully grasp the law or are unwilling to openly qualify the magnitude of the bill. Republican leaders realize that they are "stuck" with, at least, many popular provisions.
That's why, after the unexpected election of Donald Trump, they changed their tune. Thus came the mantra of "repeal and replace," instead of full repeal. The overriding question is, should Republicans even be attempting some ad hoc replacement of a bill full of mostly conservative ideas, or would they be better served by either full repeal or by just improving the current law? Let's forget politics here for a moment and take a look at this from a poker player's perspective.
To me, the reality does not fit the rhetoric. Demonizing the ACA without acknowledging that it has, and is doing, a lot of good for a lot of people has been a short-sighted tactical mistake. If we took such a short term view in poker, we would probably not last a week. In the real world, people do not generally think completely in black and white. Millions of people, and yes, that includes conservatives too, have had their lives improved by the ACA. And yet, Republican lawmakers continue to disparage Obamacare while working to craft a bill that replaces the name (to appease their base) and yet keeps popular provisions (to appease the moderates), while at the same time removing unpopular elements that are actually the glue that holds the entire bill together; namely the individual mandate. They are literally trying to bluff and value bet at the same time, except they are bluffing a calling station, and value betting bottom pair against a nit. (For you non-poker players out there, here is an article on the different player type we face day in and day out.)
Republican lawmakers could have made their lives a lot less painful. Imagine how much easier this would be if they had been saying for years, "Obamacare is flawed, we must work diligently to improve it." Wow, that just doesn't sound as sexy as calling the other party's legislation evil, and it would also keep part of President Obama's legacy intact.. which is completely untenable to conservatives. I guess that's what you get when people are worried more about getting elected than helping people. And you wonder why most people hate politicians?
Even so, the Democrats are just as much to blame. They have done a completely worthless job of selling the bill to the public, have done very little to improve the bill over time, nor are they currently taking steps to help find some sort of compromise. Liberals seem content (and hopeful) that the Republicans will just crash and burn, or worse, pass a law that is so terrible that the next election cycle will be much more favorable to them. Anyone that feels this way should be ashamed of themselves.
Now, before we look for a solution, let's take a look at the law itself and see what it's all about. Here are a few key aspects of the ACA along with an assessment of it and which party came up with it. You might find the truth surprising.
1. Individual mandate: If polled, you would find that most Americans don't like this provision. However, it is my opinion that the problem is that politicians did a poor job of explaining how this works. Basically, everyone must pay into the insurance pool to make the system viable. All insurance is based on pools of people who pay into the pool when healthy in order to benefit when sick. No one gets to be a free-loader.
Origin: This is mostly a Republican idea. It was first introduced in 1993 by John Chafee as part of an alternative health care plan to the one proposed by Clinton. Supporters of individual mandates are Orrin Hatch, Newt Hingrich, and Mitt Romney. Barack Obama initially opposed the mandate but agreed to it later on as a compromise.
2. Pre-existing conditions: Conversely to the mandate, the vast majority of Americans love this provision. It says that people cannot be denied health care based on pre-existing conditions. Before the ACA, insurance companies could just build their pools around healthy people in order to bolster their profits.
Origin: Another Republican idea. Once again, it was introduced in the 1993 Republican alternative bill.
3. Coverage for young adults: This one has been off the radar for most and avoided being a lightning rod, but is likely universally popular. Everyone can remain on their parents' plan until they are 26.
Origin: I was unable to find details on exactly whose idea this was. It was likely crafted as a compromise to make the idea of an individual mandate more tenable. Paying the penalty or buying their own health insurance is difficult for kids 18-26, as this is the time they are working on their career and not typically making much of an income.
4. Medicaid expansion: Most conservatives today see medicaid as part of the free-loader wellfare system and want to contract it or do away with it altogether. Liberals think this doesn't go far enough and call for universal coverage.
Origin: The idea for this was proposed the month I was born, in February of 1974. Republican Richard Nixon, of all people, suggested an expansion of medicaid. 30 years later, Mitt Romney basically made Nixon's plan law in Massachusetts. But don't get carried away thinking that this is some big conservative idea, it's not. This part of the ACA is a compromise to the single payer system, which Democrats still want, but didn't have the votes for back in 2009.
5. State-based exchanges: These are the marketplaces where individuals can shop for insurance. The idea is to drive down premiums through competition. Most Republican politicians rail against this and say it is a failed system that is driving costs up.
Origin: The basic idea and framework was proposed by, among others, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. It is also at the heart of "Romneycare" in Massachusetts and an attempt to add elements of a free market to a welfare program.
6. Menu labeling requirements: Chain restaurants, vending machines, etc. are now required to show calories counts. This provision is little known to the public, although everyone now enjoys this benefit. The hope was that people make better choices when there is full disclosure on calories they are consuming. My deduction is that the true intent of this provision is to force restaurateurs to improve the overall makeup of the items on their menu and provide more healthy options for their patrons.
My overall assessment is that many of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act are already based on compromise between the parties. So, why start from scratch? The current law is far from ideal, however, since it includes many facets of both the Democratic and Republican agendas, it seems ludicrous just to toss it out completely for spite's sake. Instead of being all-in on this repeal and replace nonsense, Congress should just muck that idea and start working on just improving the current law. The obvious reason they can't do that; empty promises and guarantees made over the past few years.
All of this mess could have been avoided if politicians would just stop thinking in black and white, or red and blue. Most people are reasonable, if you keep the conversation respectful. It's when you become unwilling to consider that what you believe may not be perfect that things deteriorate into a talking point shouting match. However, there is a silver lining. If Republican lawmakers can't agree on an adequate replacement to the ACA, the only recourse they will have is to try and procure the votes of some of their Democratic counterparts. In other words, the people we sent to Washington will have to take part in what our entire system was founded upon: Compromise. It's been +EV for the United States since 1776.