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Losing Sight Of What Matters In Health Reform

There was an interesting article this week in the Washington Post called “Inside the Obamacare Resistance.”  What’s interesting about it (to me at least) is that it helped tie the loose ends of thought about a number of articles and interviews that I’ve come across lately from opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  It’s an idea that I’ve had sitting there in the back of my mind for some time but that is really just now coming together — Obamacare haters don’t actually care about what’s in the law (polls shows most don’t actually know, anyway), they just want to see it fail, completely and in spectacular fashion.  This win-at-all-costs, failure at any price mentality means that there would be a lot of collateral damage but that seems to be okay to many people, like those in the FreedomWorks group highlighted in the Post article:

Young adults tend to have lower medical bills, which would hold down premiums for the entire insurance market. If only the sick and elderly sign up, health costs would skyrocket. FreedomWorks wants to make that happen and, in so doing, doom the law.

It is true that the exchanges’ success will depend largely on getting enough young, healthy people enrolled, and this has been a challenge that proponents of the law have readily admitted.  But FreedomWorks’ position seems like morally questionable ground to stand on – advocating for the cost of insurance to go up so much that it’s unaffordable for the elderly and sickest among us.  Granted, they don’t acknowledge outright that they want to drive up the cost of health insurance for those who need it the most, but that is the undisputable domino effect of advocating that younger, healthier Americans refuse to enroll.  Interestingly, they recognize it’s a tough sell (especially in light of a recent Kaiser Health poll that found young adults value health insurance coverage at very high rates):

Clancy concedes it’s a difficult pitch. His group, and others, will ask Americans to forgo billions in tax subsidies that could, for many uninsured Americans, make health insurance affordable for the first time. But the anti-Obamacare movement has few options left.

One of those few options left is an effort by some members of the House of Representatives threatening to shut down the federal government over the impending September debt ceiling debate unless President Obama signs a bill defunding the ACA.  In so many words, these politicians would rather hold the whole country hostage than let the exchanges open.  Some legislators have even said they will refuse to help their constituents who are seeking help understanding the ACA.

House leadership also intends to bring more ACA repeal votes to the floor — a ploy that has already been attempted 37 times with no success over the last three years.  How’s that saying go? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.” Two of West Virginia’s own representatives, Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito have voted for a full repeal on numerous occasions, including on bills that have no replacement plan.  This means that if a House vote for repeal were to succeed, Representatives McKinley and Capito would be supporting legislation that would effectively take away health insurance for up to 200,000 West Virginians while permitting health insurance companies to “cherry-pick” and deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, to set annual and lifetime maxes on insurance plans, and to drop dependents over the age of 18. 

There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to fix a law and undeniably there are many aspects of the ACA that could be improved.  However, Obamacare opponents have seem to lost sight of what matters in the health reform debate, preferring to kick people off of insurance and drive up the cost of care rather than let the ACA succeed.  This “win-at-all-costs” mentality does little but ensure that we all lose in the end. 

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