Prominent academics within the prestigious Harvard University department of Economics have long been vocal supporters of President Obama and his Affordable Care Act legislation. In fact, many Harvard professors helped develop some of the concepts that were utilized in the drafting of the ACA. During the debates over the ACA in Congress, these professors were frequently seen (and heard) touting the legislation as a fiscally responsible way to provide affordable care to all Americans. The current Provost, Dr Alan Garber, (not to be confused with MITs Gruber), was part of a group of economist who sent letters to the President in the early days of the ACA praising certain aspects of the bill such as “cost sharing” and the Cadillac tax applied to the best plans.
My how things have changed. This week, as reported in the New York Times, these same Harvard faculty are in an uproar as they have seen their own healthcare plans completely overhauled. Rather than being allowed to maintain their long time low cost (out of pocket) plans, the university has now implemented healthcare coverage that is consistent with the provisions in the ACA. Now there are more up front out of pocket expenses for basic insurance plans and the Cadillac plans are much more expensive.
During a faculty meeting the vast majority of Harvard professors voted to oppose the changes in the Harvard health plan that would require them to pay more for their own healthcare—How dare Harvard adjust their own benefits and how dare the University actually expect them to be a part of a new ACA influenced health care plan at Harvard???
This type of attitude is even more prevalent among lawmakers in both the White House and in Congress. Members of Congress as well as the President and all staffers are EXEMPT from the individual mandate. This type of paternalistic governance is what is wrong with Washington today. Many Democrats seem to have taken the attitude that they were elected not to represent the people but rather to do what they think is best for their constituents. In an era when the ACA is wildly unpopular, many politicians continue to refuse to believe that changes to the legislation should be made.
If the ACA is such a great thing, why then do those who designed it and legislated it refuse to participate?
- The President and His Legacy: The President continues to see the ACA as his legacy. In spite of plummeting approval numbers and a negative referendum on his failed policies during the 2014 Midterm Elections, Obama refuses to examine the numerous issues associated with the healthcare law and does not appear to have any willingness to compromise on amending the act. Unfortunately, Obama’s pursuit of his legacy appears to trump sensible bipartisan negotiations and will severely limit Washington’s ability to actually govern.
- Paternal Governance: Currently, Many in power feel as though they know what is “best” for the rest of us. Rather than represent a constituency, many of our leaders actually believe that the American people are incapable of making sound decisions for themselves and their own healthcare. The “Big Brother” knows best attitude continues to alienate millions of voting Americans. Interestingly, when those that helped craft the legislation (i.e. the now disgruntled Harvard economics professors) are subjected to the law that they supported, the outlook quickly changes.
- Partisan Politics: Our country is the more divided politically than ever before. Relationships in Washington are so polarized that compromise will be difficult to achieve. Our elected government is divided with the President refusing to even consider bills that are put forward–instead he threatens vetoes in advance on any bills that address issues concerning the reform of the ACA.
So, What’s Next?
As a country we must begin to deal with the issue of healthcare in a more productive and collaborative way. Politics as usual will result in another two years of decline in both the quality and affordability of the American healthcare system. We must hold Washington accountable and the Obama administration MUST begin to work with Congressional leaders to find workable, effective solutions to the mountain of problems that has been created by the poorly thought out and recklessly implemented Affordable Care Act legislation. And, those at Harvard (as well as those in Washington) should have to live with the same healthcare insurance programs that are mandated for the rest of us–No Exemptions.