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Obamacare cartoon

Donald Trump, answering reporters' questions for the first time in about six months this past Wednesday, assured us all once again that he and his Republican cohort in the Congress are going to give us a health care law that will not only be cheaper, but better than the Affordable Care Act.

Proclaiming that Obamacare is a "complete disaster," he also once again offered no hint of what this wonderful new plan would contain and how the 20 million people now covered by the ACA will fare under it, except to say that as Obamacare is dismantled it will be immediately replaced with this magical new plan, which even congressional Republicans have no clue about.

Then he repeated the same lies he and others have repeatedly used to claim that health insurance premiums and health care expenses have been rising at unheard-of rates under Obamacare.

The truth is that rates have indeed increased significantly for the 10 percent of Americans who get coverage through the insurance exchanges, and that's because not enough healthy young people have joined the plans. Most of that 10 percent receives subsidies to help pay for their coverage, but there are some who fall into a no-man's land where their incomes prohibit subsidies. They need to be helped. 

In the meantime, though, the other 90 percent of people with health insurance, either on their own, through their employers or from Medicare, are seeing premiums that have been rising more slowly than ever before in recent history. Too many people forget just how fast insurance costs were rising before Obamacare. It was double and triple the inflation rate.

Indeed, health care costs and insurance rates have slowed so much thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that Medicare's solvency has been extended for several years.

None of this looks anything like a disaster.

What Republicans could do is fix the exchanges, which ironically would have been much better off if not for the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that states couldn't be required to offer exchanges to their own citizens. We know the results of that all too well here in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker decided it was wiser to insert partisan politics into the equation than to help make the Affordable Care Act work. By making the necessary tweaks to fix Obamacare's problems, something previous Congresses did with both Social Security and Medicare after they were rolled out, millions of Americans wouldn't have to suffer angst, not to mention the uncertainty that could roil the insurance industry.

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That would actually help solve a problem that could help millions of Americans, which, after all, ought to be government's goal. But, no, Donald Trump and the Republican Congress would rather use this to make what they think are political gotchas. In the end, the people may decide to play gotcha with them.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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