Posted by: JanF | November 18, 2013

The real political scandal in the “Obamacare” rollout

There is a big political scandal surrounding the rollout of the latest phase of the Affordable Care Act. It is real and it is encapsulated in this quote:

“Republican hostility toward the poor and unfortunate has now reached such a fever pitch that the party does not stand for anything else …”
– Paul Krugman, economist and author

Yes, there are web site glitches at healthcare.gov and cancellations of sub-standard health insurance policies (and in some cases, insurance companies choosing to leave the health care market altogether). Yes, people who the media like to talk to are angry and upset. But who is giving a rats patootie about the people in the states with negligent governors who refuse to expand Medicaid? And a Congress that is so focused on their ideology that they deny their humanity?

Who cares about these people?

From Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress’ Health Editor: Hurricane Katrina, The Obamacare Rollout, And Allowing Privilege To Shape Our Politics

… as Republican lawmakers continue to stoke outrage over the people who have been harmed by Obamacare’s troubled rollout — the people who are still struggling to sign up for coverage on the exchange websites, and more recently, the people who are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies — there is one obvious point of comparison. It doesn’t have anything to do with the political career of the sitting president, though. It has to do with the privilege that continues to dominate the United States’ political priorities.

It’s about who is worth rescuing.

Here are those that the Very Concerned Congressional Republicans have no interest in rescuing:

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about five million poor Americans will have no access to basic health benefits under Obamacare because they fall into a “coverage gap” created by this fight over Medicaid. Without expansion, they make too much money to qualify for their state’s Medicaid program, but too little money to qualify for subsidies on the individual market. […]

“Blacks are disproportionately affected, largely because more of them are poor and living in Southern states,” the New York Times reported last month. “In all, 6 out of 10 blacks live in the states not expanding Medicaid.”

Millions of people locked out of Obamacare? Hardworking Americans struggling to get by who can’t realize the promise of affordable health coverage? That seems like a political scandal.

The author concludes that it does tie back to Katrina, but not in the way that Republicans and their captive media are spinning it:

… the single mother who’s working two part-time jobs in Louisiana and still doesn’t qualify for Medicaid probably hasn’t had enough time to keep up with the raging Obamacare debate, let alone feel like she has a voice in it. She’s not launching a campaign to get on Fox News, and they’re not calling her, either.

If we must draw comparisons between Obamacare and previous national disasters, consider this one. As a collective society, we still haven’t really learned the lessons of Hurricane Katrina — but not because of a broken website or a broken promise about keeping your plan. We haven’t figured out how to prioritize that Louisiana mother’s life.

Under the stopped-clock principle, even the Washington Post editorial board has noticed the problem:

The latest estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reckons that 55 million non-elderly people in the United States lack health insurance; after the law phases in fully, there will be around 31 million. Last year, the CBO figured that the number of non-elderly uninsured after the phase-in would be lower — 27 million. […]

But a factor that the law’s authors couldn’t foresee was Republican intransigence combined with last year’s Supreme Court ruling. The justices proclaimed that states could opt out of an expansion of Medicaid, a partnership between states and the federal government that provides health care to poor people. The law aimed to cover a larger percentage of low-income people by raising Medicaid’s eligibility limits across the country, with the federal government paying for nearly all of the cost. It was a bargain that no state leader should have passed up. Yet Republican politicians have blocked Medicaid expansion in half the states.

In 2012, the famously reality-challenged Supreme Court struck down the part of the Affordable Care Act that provided affordable care to the working poor, claiming … I am not sure what they are claiming. That poor people should just get sick and die if they live in a state with Republican legislatures? That death panels are a good idea as long as they are run by Republican governors? That States Rights override common decency?

I wonder who will address this political scandal and this unfulfilled promise of the Affordable Care Act. Probably not the privileged members of Congress who are focused only on fulfilling their promises to their Tea Party masters: to obstruct President Obama’s agenda at all costs.

Much easier for them to address complaints about web site clicks that generate an error and the “injustice” of a junk insurance policy being canceled than to find a way to address the real needs of 5 million Americans who are being denied affordable health care on purely ideological grounds.

By the way, this is something We The People can fix and it won’t take an administrative order or an Act of Congress. In 2014, many of those states which refused the Medicaid expansion will have governors seeking re-election or retiring. We can fix that and we can fix Congress by electing members who will work to find solutions to the real problems with the Affordable Care Act, not spend time on the tempests in the Republican’s tea(party)pots.

Elections Matter. Your vote counts. Make it count in 2014.

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