If you remember the good ol' days of journalism, you remember something called "the beat reporter." When newsrooms were swimming in profits and in reporters, folks were detached to cover things like the labor movement, transportation, even health care. That era has been mostly downsized, which makes the survivors really stand out. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times has been all over the Obamacare story like December ice on a Philly street, which means that unlike 90 percent of the folks writing about the Affordable Care Act, he knows what he's talking about.
This weekend, Hiltzik lashed out at Gov. Tom Corbett's plan for expanding health care coverage here in Pennsylvania. In fact, he called it "a sham."
Specifically, he said that Corbett's recent plan called "Healthy Pennsylvania" contains so many provisions that violate the 2010 health care reform law that federal regulators are certain to reject it, and even if they didn't the plan probably wouldn't be ready until 2015. In the meantime, some 500,000 Pennsylvanians who would have had health care had Corbett done a simple, federally funded Medicaid expansion — as other governors, even a few conservative Republicans, have done — will now be uncovered. A few of them will get sicker for no good reason except politics. Some of them will die.
Corbett wants to have it both ways. He intends to masquerade as a feeling governor intent on bringing healthcare to the masses at practical cost. But beneath the fancy dress lies a cynical politician who knows his plan isn't practical. If it gets rejected he'll blame the Obama administration. "We tried," he'll say. "But they blocked us." Don't be taken in.
In addition to its lack of inclusiveness, Hiltzik and other experts attacked the Draconian nature of the proposal — throwing low-income off the program for missing just one payment and requiring "work search" — even though poor health now hampers many job hunters.
Look, none of this is say that the the static law that was signed in 2010, or its often inept implementation by the Obama administration, is perfect. Parts of it -- the website roll-out, which is still having problems on the back end, and so-called "losers" in the changeover who had little or no warning -- are deeply flawed. That's because improving or just simply providing health care to millions of Americans never should have been a one-off event; in a perfect world, reforming health care would be an organic process.
Aspects of the 2010 law can be fixed or improved, but that would take people in both parties working together -- and actually caring about the personal welfare of their constituents, especially the working poor -- instead of scoring cheap political points, At least Tom Corbett is very clear where he comes down on that.