Evansville Courier & Press. Nov. 3, 2014.
Obamacare likely to last
Remember the ugly political battles over the federal deficit at the end of the George W. Bush administration and the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency? The Affordable Care Act shows similar signs of receding as a political issue. Absent Obama's name on it, the act might not be an issue at all.
For years, the Republicans talked about repealing Social Security and later Medicare and Medicaid as big government meddling in the private sector and as harbingers of socialism. But, the programs were so popular with the voters they became the "third rail" of American politics: Touch it and you're dead politically. One day, the same may be true of the Affordable Care Act.
The Associated Press reports, "While Republicans in Congress shout, 'Repeal Obamacare,' GOP governors in many states have quietly accepted the law's major Medicaid expansion. Even if their party wins control of the Senate in the upcoming elections, they just don't see the law going away."
The Republicans hostile to the law are up against the hard political fact that once the government gives the public a popular benefit, it becomes very difficult to take that benefit away: not being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions; the right of children under 26 to stay on their parents' health plan; the ability of those in states with functioning insurance exchanges to shop for cheaper and better programs.
An enduring political puzzle is why Republicans have failed to take credit for the idea behind Obamacare. It originated in a Republican think tank and, even today, the most successful state health insurance program is in Massachusetts where then-Gov. Mitt Romney instituted a prototype of the Affordable Care Act with the result that only 4.3 percent of the state's residents lack health insurance. But as a presidential candidate, he ran away from his own successful plan as if it were toxic.
The Obama administration badly botched the rollout of Affordable Care, making it difficult to sign up because of poorly designed computer programs and inadequately trained personnel. Those problems have largely been solved, but glitches remain that congressional Republicans refuse to fix for fear the improvements would hand Obama an unalloyed success.
Has the law succeeded? The New York Times unleashed a team of reporters to find out and concluded, "After a year fully in place, the Affordable Care Act has largely succeeded in delivering on President Obama's main promises, even as it has fallen short in some ways and given rise to a powerful conservative backlash."
One reason Obamacare is likely to survive a GOP takeover is the Republicans can't agree on a replacement. Meanwhile, as they wrangle, the Affordable Care Act is becoming ever more deeply rooted in the health care system. And, as Americans increasingly take it for granted, the lawmakers mess with it at their peril.
The Times, Munster. Nov. 3, 2014.
State funding for RDA is top priority
It is telling that ensuring the continued state support of the RDA is the top priority of the community leaders who attended the One Region retreat Oct. 23.
It is through the RDA that the work of transforming the region has begun. The state must ensure this transformation continues by funding the RDA adequately. And by that we mean at least $10 million a year - more, if necessary, to make the South Shore extension happen.
"Without that state funding, we lose leverage and lose a partner in this process," said RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna.
We would lose momentum, too.
The state's $10 million share is over one-third of the RDA's budget.
In its first nine years, the RDA has leveraged state and local funds to bring new businesses to the area, redevelop portions of the Lake Michigan shoreline for improved public access, expand the runway at Gary/Chicago International Airport, purchase new rolling stock for passengers' use on the South Shore Line and more. Thousands of jobs have been generated in the process.
The next big push is expanding South Shore service along the West Lake Corridor. That's a project that will improve access to high-paying jobs in Chicago and, if done right, will bring residents and jobs to Northwest Indiana.
"We're going to be focused on transit-oriented development," Hanna said at the One Region retreat. That means developing housing and retail near train stations so commuters won't need an extra car. The young generation, known as Millennials, has shown to be fond of public transit, and Northwest Indiana needs to cater to that generation to invest in the region's future.
There are other aims for the RDA, of course, but it's vital for the state to continue to pay its share for the ongoing transformation of Northwest Indiana.
The investment pays high dividends, something business-minded leaders in the Statehouse should appreciate.
The RDA's work must continue, and the state must remain a willing partner.