Max Baucus: The longtime Montana democratic senator who, in 2008, popped his head up and said 'hey, health care prices are absurd.' He'd always been a more moderate Dem who could work with the GOP, so he made bipartisan healthcare reform his thing. For months, he led the Senate-side of talks that eventually led to Obamacare.
George W Bush: Dubya wanted to do something about the crazy costs of prescription drugs. So in 2003, he pushed forward a federal program to help pay for prescription drugs for people on Medicare (meaning the 65+ crowd). The problem? Lobbyists pushed to include a ban on the federal government negotiating discounts for the drugs. Meaning costs are still going up, and the government sucks it up and pays for it.
CBO: That's the Congressional Budget Office to you. This is a group of nonpartisan, independent budget nerds. Their whole job is figuring out how much bills in Congress are going to cost over time. Every little change that was made to Obamacare on the negotiating table had to be 'scored' by the CBO. Many lawmakers considered the CBO score when deciding whether to vote for the bill or not. Although there was a CBO score for the first GOP replacement plan in 2017, lawmakers voted on version 2.0 without waiting for a second report card from the CBO.
Catholic Church: A major force in politics, especially conservative politics. What the Church has to say influences voters – and therefore lawmakers. The Church pushed to make sure that Obamacare wouldn't allow people to use health care subsidies to pay for abortions. That request eventually made it into the final law. It also wasn't a fan of letting insurance pay for contraception. That request didn't get blessed.
Hillary Clinton: In the '90s, Bill tapped her to come up with a plan to overhaul the US healthcare system. Hillarycare was complicated. She wanted health care for all. Her plan aimed to set up state insurance purchasing groups that would collect monthly bills owed by consumers and businesses. These groups would also guarantee health coverage for everyone living in the state. If you don't get it, don't worry. Neither did a lot of people. Doctors, hospitals, and unions had a simple message to counter her plan: 'government should stay out of our health care, amirite?' Lawmakers agreed. No deal.
Ted Cruz: The first-term Republican senator from Texas and "Green Eggs and Ham" aficionado. In 2013, he led an effort to stop funding Obamacare by blocking a new budget from passing Congress. This led to a government shutdown.
Freedom Caucus: A squad of about three dozen of the most conservative House Republicans. Earlier this year, GOP leaders cued the drumroll and finally mic-dropped an Obamacare replacement plan. Turns out, a lot of GOP lawmakers were not on board. That included almost the entire Freedom Caucus, which felt the replacement plan wasn't nearly conservative enough. They wanted to axe parts of the plan that they felt would be too expensive, including a requirement that insurers cover "essential" health benefits. They blocked the GOP bill, and negotiated changes to the second version that they'd go along with.
Hobby Lobby: A chain of crafts stores that sued the feds for requiring employers to offer contraceptive coverage under Obamacare. Hobby Lobby, citing religious reasons, argued that there are some types of contraceptives that are too much like shmashmortion. Looking at you, Plan B. In 2014, the Supremes agreed: family-owned companies shouldn't have to pay for something they're against. Because, religious freedom.
Healthcare.gov: The site set up by the feds for people to sign up for health care who couldn't get it through a state exchange. When it went live back in October 2013, it fell right on its digital face. Things were glitchy for a while, but now it's feeling better.
Heritage Foundation: The conservative think tank that, back in the late 80's, came up with a healthcare fix. This included a requirement that everyone buy health insurance. It was the inspo for the 'individual mandate' that would eventually become one of the key parts of Obamacare...and that the Heritage Foundation would ultimately oppose.
Lyndon B. Johnson: LBJ came up with Medicare and Medicaid, the twin government programs. They make sure that the Boca crowd and the very poor in US society get health care. They're also crazy expensive for taxpayers to keep afloat – and the bill is getting worse every year.
Ted Kennedy: The longtime Massachusetts democratic senator who helped then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R, MA) pass a sweeping health care plan in his state. He also helped Sen. Max Baucus (D, MT) put together the early versions of what became Obamacare. He considered universal health care the cause of his life. Kennedy died in August, 2009 as Obamacare was still being negotiated on Capitol Hill.
Kentucky: Even though President Obama was seriously unpopular in Kentucky, it was one of the first states to plan a health care exchange (called Kynect...not Obamacare). Tens of thousands enrolled in health plans, and hundreds of thousands enrolled in Medicaid. Kentucky closed the Kynect exchange when a Republican governor was elected in 2016, and switched over to Healthcare.gov.
Barack Obama: The one who put the Obama in Obamacare. When he got the White House job back in 2009, he made healthcare reform a top priority. His law didn't do much to deal with the rising costs in the industry. But, as of 2017, more Americans are insured than ever before.
Sarah Palin: The one-time vice presidential candidate who, back in 2009 when Obamacare was still being hashed out, claimed it included “death panels.” Aka panels of bureaucrats who would decide which Americans – like the elderly – would get care and which wouldn't. This was not a thing.
Planned Parenthood: A nonprofit that provides reproductive health care in the US and abroad. Also a major target for pro-life advocates, since it's the country's largest abortion provider. Republican lawmakers often push to end federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood services, even though by law these funds can't go towards abortion procedures.
Tom Price: The new Health and Human Services Secretary under President Trump. Also one of Obamacare's biggest critics. Now, he's in a key position to undermine the law and help Republicans implement their own plan.
Mitt Romney: The one who, as the governor of Massachusetts, passed a health reform law that would later become the blueprint for Obamacare. When running for prez in 2012, he argued that his law was a solution for one state – not for the whole country.
Paul Ryan: Speaker of the House. Also the one who in early 2017 – after seven years of Republicans calling to repeal and replace Obamacare – rolled out a GOP plan with other party leaders. And got crickets. Some Republicans didn't think it was conservative enough. Others worried too many people would be kicked off their health insurance. No deal. Ryan spent several weeks tweaking the bill to get enough Republicans on board. In early May, it passed.
Tea Party: A right-leaning grassroots movement of people protesting government intervention in their lives. It started as a reaction to bailouts for corporations that helped cause the financial crisis. But it quickly turned its focus to Obamacare, and the idea of government 'coming between you and your doctor.' Tea, spilled.
Harry Truman: Back in the late '40s, Truman pushed Congress to approve a public health insurance system so everyone would get care. After doctors, hospitals, and unions – all benefiting from the status quo – pushed back HARD, the idea got tossed.
Donald Trump: Mr. President. He campaigned on calling Obamacare a “disaster” that needed to be replaced. Trump also said his replacement wouldn't make cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. Earlier this year, he backed a GOP replacement plan that quickly failed in the House. But after some tweaks, the GOP brought it back to the table and it passed.
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