In any sane political system, this would be a week to celebrate. For the first time in our nation’s history, millions of Americans who have survived cancer, a heart attack or a stroke will be able to sign up for affordable health insurance. Companies can longer deny them coverage or charge exorbitant premiums because of their past medical history.
Young adults in low wage jobs can sign up for affordable coverage this week too and won’t have to keep gambling that they won’t get sick and face financial ruin. Millions of families will no longer be just one serious illness away from bankruptcy.
But these are clearly not sane political times.
A group of far-right ideologues representing highly gerrymandered districts in Congress have literally shut down the federal government in a desperate effort to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, halting services for millions of people and denying paychecks to hundreds of thousands of public sector employees in the process.
And to be clear, despite all the misleading headlines about Congress not being able to reach a compromise, this not a run of the mill policy debate, this the extremist wing of the Republican Party holding their party and the rest of the country hostage because of their pathological hatred of a law passed by Congress and signed by a President who soundly won reelection last year.
The shut-downers apparently would rather not give folks who survived cancer a chance to buy affordable coverage.
Monday morning, the Heritage Foundation sent out an ominous email warning that “in less than 24 hours the government takeover of health care will begin implementation.” The Heritage folks have apparently not visited healthcare.gov. There is no government takeover of anything.
People have the opportunity to buy health insurance offered by companies in the private market, just the way the plan with the individual mandate promoted by the same Heritage Foundation 25 years ago was designed to work. Just like the way it works in Massachusetts now after being established years ago by that known socialist, Governor Mitt Romney.
And here’s the least reported part of it all. The vast majority of people in North Carolina and across the country who already have health care coverage will not be affected at all by the Affordable Care Act.
Roughly half the people in North Carolina are covered by health plans through their employer. Their plans won’t change.
Nobody from the government will tell them which doctor they can see. That is up to their insurance company now and will be up to their insurance company when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.
Another 17 percent of people in the state are currently covered by Medicaid, most of them children, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and seniors. They will not be affected by the new law. Neither will the 13 percent of North Carolinians currently on Medicare, folks older than 65.
That leaves the roughly 17 percent of state’s population who are now uninsured and a few percent who currently have individual plans. Most of them can sign up for health care coverage this week and the vast majority will be eligible for a subsidy to make their premiums affordable.
Those are the folks who can’t afford coverage now or have simply been denied it, many because of their history of cancer or heart disease or diabetes.
That’s why the reactionaries want to shut the government down, because they are willing to do anything to make sure the Affordable Care Act does not work and does not help the millions of people without health care coverage.
Despite the destructive theatrics and the suffering they will cause, the Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land and people in North Carolina and across the country will sign up and their health care coverage will begin in January.
Political insanity or not, that is something to celebrate indeed.