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Obamacare opposition cynical

The irony in this is hard to beat. So is the lie. An Internet-based ad features a young woman on an examining table with her legs up in stirrups waiting to be examined. But instead of her doctor, a sinister-looking Uncle Sam pops up holding a speculum and peering between her legs as the screaming woman tries to back away.

“Don’t let government play doctor,” it says. “Opt out of Obamacare.” Produced by an outfit called Generation Opportunity, the ad is funded by the conservative billionaire Koch Brothers, frequent contributors to Republican causes.

It’s inexcusable to hint at a violent, traumatic encounter to alarm and mislead women away from getting health coverage. It’s also the ultimate in hypocrisy. Putting the government between a woman and her doctor has for decades been the Republican approach. They’ve made the constitutionally protected right to an abortion almost impossible to access in some cases; stripped Medicaid coverage for it except in cases of rape or incest; and then tried to parse the definition of rape. They’ve even gone after contraceptive coverage. And, most relevant here, Republicans tried to block a mandate that it be included in the new health care law.

Far from forcing actions on people against their will, replacing trusted doctors with government bureaucrats or taking away women’s choices, the new law expands choices and gives consumers more power. It requires employers to cover preventive services including drugs, contraception and sterilization. It makes it possible for people to leave jobs they’ve stayed in only for the health benefits and buy coverage on the insurance exchange. They can no longer be denied because of pre-existing conditions.

Yet Generation Opportunity also has a TV ad intended to discourage young people from signing up for health insurance. That’s a group that has already benefited greatly from the Affordable Care Act by being able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

So why are some Republicans so invested in having people not buy health insurance when the new insurance exchanges go into effect on Tuesday? In part because of a conservative anti-regulation philosophy that says big business should be able to do whatever it pleases (the Koch brothers also fought environmental regulations). The law imposes penalties on large employers that provide no health coverage or unaffordable coverage.

But opponents should be honest about what their opposition is based on. A writer for the conservative Heritage Foundation, for example, calls Obamacare “a massive intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship, micromanaging how health care should be delivered to patients.” But if you follow the link to find out how that relationship is threatened, you are led to an essay on how doctors will suffer under the expansion of Medicaid and Medicare because those impose price controls on payments to doctors. The only danger to consumers suggested is that doctors could refuse to accept new Medicare patients.

Republicans already fought these battles and lost. It’s been three years since the health care law was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. It has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Parts already have been implemented. Yet House Republicans have voted 41 times to kill it, or features of it. And last week they voted to defund it even if that leads to a government shutdown – which analysts say would cost $100 million a day. How ironic for an effort intended to block government spending.

If they can’t stop it from going into effect, these folks are hell-bent on having it fail. So they’re trying to discourage enrollment in the new health care exchanges fearing, according to an article in the New York Times, that once people begin receiving benefit from the law, “they will be loath to give it up.” As a political strategy, that scorched-earth policy, which is opposed by other Republicans such as Rand Paul, John McCain and Karl Rove, is likely to backfire. Significantly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reports it has raised more than $840,000 online since the House move to strip funding from the law.

But that hasn’t stopped the forces behind these ads from doing all they can to exploit people’s most visceral fears – even as they expose their own sinister motivations: to prevent the president from being proven right.

Rekha Basu is a Des Moines Register columnist.

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