Obama Signs Sweeping National Health Care Overhaul

Published May 31, 2016

Emerging triumphant at the end of a long and fractious political battle, President Barack Obama signed into law sweeping legislative changes to America’s health care system in a ceremony at the White House on March 23.

The version of the bill Obama signed was primarily composed of the Senate version of health care reform passed last December—not the ideal language from the perspective of the White House, since it includes several controversial provisions. Yet the moment marked the most significant policy achievement of Obama’s presidency, serving also as a testament to the ability of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to hammer through the unpopular legislation by a 219-212 margin in the face of bipartisan opposition and sinking poll numbers.

Republicans Dedicated to Repeal

According to Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Republicans will dedicate themselves to repealing the “Obamacare” plan and passing an alternative health care reform plan that allows markets to function.

“This is a disaster for the future of the country, not just because it’s bad health care policy but because of the massive debt we’re going to pile on. The games that were played to understate the true costs of this bill, the tricks and the gimmicks that were used, betray future generations,” Thune said.

Thune and his fellow Republicans believe Americans will soon find the promises made to pass this legislation were too good to be true.

“There are so many unkept promises in this bill—taxes on the middle class, premiums going down, lowering the deficit, transparency in the process, and keeping your own doctor and plan—and the American people will see that,” Thune said. “They will see what actually happens.”

President Perpetuates Myths

In remarks in Iowa City in the aftermath of his signing ceremony, Obama repeated many of these same promises.

“[My opponents] will have to finally acknowledge that this isn’t a government takeover of our health care system. They will see that if Americans like their doctor, they will keep their doctor. If people like their plan, they will keep their plan,” Obama said.

Yet ABC News, FactCheck.org, and other independent groups have found this is not the case. Companies such as telecom giant Verizon and construction company Caterpillar Inc. have already issued memos warning employees that premiums will continue to rise and new taxes could make prescription drug coverage too costly for companies to maintain.

“From our point of view, a tax increase like this cannot come at a worse time,” said Jim Dugan, a Caterpillar spokesman, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Benjamin Domenech ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.