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ObamaCare is working

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The north country has a distinctive and honorable political tradition.

At a time when politicians elsewhere pay more attention to party than to principle, the north country has often featured political leaders from both parties who tell the truth even when it does not help their career or their party.

That is why it is important to preserve this north country tradition and set the record straight on ObamaCare.

On the pages of this newspaper in November, Elise Stefanik, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination in the 21st Congressional District, distorted what ObamaCare has done and will do.

Matthew Doheny, the Republican nominee for this congressional seat in 2010 and 2012 and a candidate for the nomination again this election, has also campaigned against this law by distorting what ObamaCare does.

The north country deserves to know what the law really has done and will do rather than what Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny are misleading voters by saying it does.

ObamaCare has meant more people have health care; health care is cheaper than it would be; and more people have jobs.

There have been mistakes by the Obama administration in implementing the law, and the administration deserves to know that and to pay a political price for that.

But the mistakes are similar to those that were made when Social Security and Medicare were introduced, and now leaders from across the ideological spectrum — including Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Doheny — strongly support those laws.

First, according to a story in the Washington Post this week, close to 10 million more Americans have health care insurance because of ObamaCare.

Several counties in the north country have seen increases in health insurance coverage that are as high as any in the country.

A law that means millions of Americans and thousands of north country residents now do not have to worry about losing their house because they cannot pay for their health care seems like a good thing.

Second, health care costs had been skyrocketing for many years before ObamaCare was enacted.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the national increase from year to year sometimes was more than 10 percent.

This caused particular problems for the north country because many health care facilities were far enough from where residents lived that it made obtaining health care quite expensive.

Since ObamaCare was enacted — and, in many ways, because of it — health care costs have increased at the slowest rates ever recorded. This means a bigger paycheck for Americans and smaller bills for federal and state governments.

Third, Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik both have complained that ObamaCare will reduce job growth.

When ObamaCare was enacted, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent. Now it is 6.7 percent.

Put another way: Many millions more Americans are now working since that law was enacted.

In the north country, unemployment rates have also dropped since ObamaCare was enacted.

Most projections are that, free of the stress of not having health insurance and encouraged by the health care innovation ObamaCare supports, many new industries and new jobs will be created in the future.

There are special rules in ObamaCare to foster new jobs in the health care industry in rural areas in places like the north country.

We should not let progress blind us to the kinds of mistakes made whenever our public policy takes a big step forward.

There have been many policy and political mistakes in the past few years as ObamaCare has gone from promise to reality.

Things might be better, but they could be better still.

Quitting doesn’t make anything better.

We can say something similar about other laws that had a hard time at first but worked out in the end.

The Social Security Act of 1935 had a difficult time in its first few years, but very few Americans — Democrats or Republicans — would now oppose providing economic security for retired Americans.

After Medicare became federal law in 1966, it had a difficult time in its first few years.

But very few Americans — Democrats or Republicans — would now oppose giving 40 million seniors and nearly 10 million children health care.

ObamaCare is not perfect and requires real surgery to make it the kind of durable, healthy law we want shaping our health care system.

By making exaggerated claims about ObamaCare, Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik try to score political points rather than helping us to think about how to take steps forward.

I was raised in Plattsburgh, and my memories of the north country are of a different kind of politics than this.

From former Republican Congressman John McHugh to the late state Sen. Ronald Stafford to former Plattsburgh Democratic Mayor Clyde Rabideau, I remember reading the national newspapers and the local newspapers and being so proud that north country leaders like them were different — and better.

I felt pride to be from the north country because we still worked together to make our region and our country better.

Regardless of your politics, everyone can agree that ObamaCare was one of the defining laws enacted in the past generation.

The political leaders of today should stand on the shoulders of the north country political giants of the past and lead the north country in an honest debate about what the law means for the north country and for the entire country.

Political leaders owe us at least that much.



David Fontana was raised in Plattsburgh. He is now a law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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