On pre-existing conditions, Republicans protect only themselves | Editorial

Posted Oct 25, 2020

Even if there were no COVID, no corruption or climate change, this issue alone provides ample reason to reject President Trump and Republicans in New Jersey: They are a grave danger to as many as 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions like cancer, asthma, and diabetes.

They are promising to protect people with those pre-existing conditions, a key component of the Affordable Care Act. But what they have done since 2016 is nothing – except pursue their all-out assault on Obamacare, where those protections lie.

So people like Daria Caldwell of Flemington, a 62-year-old cancer patient who lost her job and health benefits in this pandemic, live in constant fear. She’s still years away from qualifying for Medicare and could be left without any coverage if Republicans win in the Supreme Court next month.

“Dissolving the Affordable Care Act would cost me my life,” she said at a forum on Thursday. “That sounds dramatic because it is. I don’t want to die, but I feel like a price tag has been put on my head, and the constant threat of ‘will I or won’t I have insurance’ is beyond anything I thought I would have to endure as an American citizen.”

The core lie from Republicans is that if they succeed in abolishing the ACA, they will produce something better, something that forces insurers to sell policies to people like her. Great, at first glance.

But Obamacare also caps the premiums insurers can demand, and the out of pocket expenses. It bars insurers from selling fake policies that, for example, include no hospitalization or chemotherapy. Without those protections, Caldwell would be out of luck, even if the rule says they must sell her a policy.

Republicans have never come up with a plan to do all that, in all these years. Their promise is hollow. It’s a fake protection, good only for a talking point.

Which brings us to the Republicans running in all the toughest races in New Jersey. Each is making a phony promise, just like this, as a form of political cover.

* * * * *

Start with Rosemary Becchi, the tax lawyer challenging Democrat Mikie Sherrill.

Becchi wants to abolish the ACA, but claims she could still protect people with pre-existing conditions by giving out tax incentives to insurers who do the right thing, and penalizing those who don’t.

It wouldn’t work, experts say. And it’s politically unrealistic, given that there is no political constituency in support of it. It’s a talking point, nothing more.

“That’s ridiculous,” says Linda Blumberg, a health policy expert at the Urban Institute. “You don’t have to spend the money at all, you just set the rules for insurers and they all follow them, which is what the ACA is doing.”

Not to mention that if Obamacare were repealed, as Becchi hopes, we’d also lose the subsidies that help people afford insurance.

She then falls back on her personal story of a child born with a medical problem, as former Rep. Tom MacArthur often did in 2018, even as he led the charge to repeal Obamacare. It was fake then, and voters rejected MacArthur for it. This is no different.

Other Republicans are at least as bad. David Richter, former Democrat Jeff Van Drew, Tom Kean Jr. and Frank Pallotta are also running under the banner of a party trying to kill the ACA, joining and strengthening its coalition, and trying to evade responsibility for the danger that presents.

Richter and Rep. Van Drew say they won’t push to repeal the law, but that means little if they stand idly by and let the court do the dirty work for them, while offering no plan to replace Obamacare if it is killed. Kean and Pallotta are even worse – they won’t answer the question on repeal of Obamacare.

Insurers have clear financial incentive to exclude sick people from their ledger. That’s why the ACA had to provide so many protections, something you just can’t get from a stand-alone Republican bill.

“They’re either trying to mislead or they don’t understand anything about private health insurance,” Blumberg says. “And what they’re bargaining on is that because private health insurance is so complicated, people will think it’s a real protection…. I would say, how dare you?”

* * * * *

The American Medical Association essentially did: Abolishing the ACA would do “serious harm to patients,” it warned, and in the midst of our fight against a pandemic, would be a “self-inflicted wound” that could take decades to heal.

Trust respected patient advocacy groups like that, or the American Cancer Society. Or those with the most to lose, like Scott Chesney – who was paralyzed from the legs down by a rare stroke at age 15, when he was an athlete at Verona High School, and now fears losing his health coverage if the ACA is overturned.

He needs a regimen of expensive medications just to pass food through his body. “If I can’t afford it, I don’t live,” says the married father of two.

If Abe Rosenstein of Edison could no longer afford his anti-viral, anti-bacterial and immunosuppressant drugs, he says he’d lose the new kidney he got four years ago and have to go right back on the transplant list. Thousands of people who’ve had COVID-19 may now also require kidney transplants or dialysis, he adds.

Angie Tyson Dixon of Camden, who has epilepsy, says she would suffer up to 15 seizures a day without her medication. She relies on getting on her health care through the ACA so she can afford to raise her kids. “I lost my mother because she did not have the insurance she needed,” she recounts, “and we can’t go back to a time without it.”

If the ACA gets overturned, Joe Biden would come up with a backup plan to protect these people from discrimination by insurers. If you want it to pass, re-elect Democrats to Congress: Folks like Sherrill, Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim, who flipped moderate districts in 2018 because they vowed to defend the ACA.

If you are someone who believes the cost of medical care should fall on those who need it, regardless of their pain or inability to pay, then just tell everyone that’s your philosophy. Don’t hide it. The least Republicans owe these people is the truth.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-10-26 03:05:52 -0700