Rather than pursue a discussion with voters about the aspects of their healthcare plans that they find most frustrating, they side with the corporate interests that would benefit most from a repeal, with or without a replacement. Even more baffling is why the “conservative” party would want to take actions that would result in increasing our deficit when we should be trying to reduce it and build a surplus.
Consider the individual mandate. Republicans do not want citizens contributing towards the health care of another citizen. To illustrate this, consider the response of former Congressman and radio host Joe Walsh to Jimmy Kimmel’s plea for better universal access to health care days after Kimmel’s son was born with Tetralogy of Fallot. Joe twitted “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: Your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.” Besides being crass, this philosophy ignores the point of how insurance works. Sharing and spreading of risk allows individuals to get the care they need, when they need it, without going bankrupt.
Premiums that are paid into the pool by healthier individuals benefit those who are currently sick. When the healthy individuals become sick, then they, too, benefit from premiums paid by other healthy individuals. Insurance only works if there are mostly healthy individuals paying into it to cover the costs of those members who are sick.
Unfortunately, the lifetime risk of having a major illness in this country is high, and most Americans do not make enough money to sufficiently save for such a catastrophic event. For example, what would an American who is struggling to make student loan payments, while covering daycare expenses, on a minimum wage do with a health savings account? Absolutely nothing.
So, the problem is not about paying for someone else’s health care, as Republicans have so crudely put it. Rather, it’s about protecting oneself against a potentially life threatening, life changing and bankrupting event. It’s about preserving life and maintaining a productive society.
There’s no doubt that if people can’t get the care they need, their productivity diminishes and society suffers the loss. We are not talking about social welfare, as they like to describe it. We’re talking about insuring our democracy and its future success by making sure that every American can remain a healthy, productive member of society.
The second fallacy in Walsh’s philosophy is that one can get away from contributing, in some way or another, towards someone else’s health care. Even before the ACA, a proportion of our state taxes went towards funding community safety-net hospitals aimed at providing care to indigent populations.
Alternatively, private hospitals that cared for uninsured patients wrote off those unpaid bills as losses, thereby decreasing tax revenue. Regardless of how you look at the issue, all tax-paying Americans pay the bill for those who go uninsured and default on their healthcare expenses.
Compassion doesn’t play into it. By requiring individuals to pay into health insurance premiums, the government is not forcing compassion onto people — it is protecting tax-paying Americans from losing their tax revenue that could otherwise be used for things like education, infrastructure, and community development.
As partisan as this argument may seem, my intent is not to promote the Democratic agenda, but rather to make explicit the point that Republicans are not looking at the problems with the ACA, nor are they trying to find real solutions. Their most recent proposals are a testament to that.
The only Americans they seem to serve are those who need the ACA the least. Yet many of the Americans who pledge their undying support to the Republican party often need the ACA more than they realize.
- “The Trumpcare Disaster.” The New York Times. Updated May 4, 2017. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/opinion/obamacare-house-vote.html. Accessed May 18, 2017.
- Wilper, Andrew, et al. “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults.” Am J Public Health. 2009;99: 2298-2295.
- Martin N and Montagne R. “Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves US Moms In Danger.” NPR. Updated May 12, 2017. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527806002/focus-on-infants-during-childbirth-leaves-u-s-moms-in-danger. Accessed May 18, 2017.