High stakes

The GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare are driven by greed

I was covered by my mom’s health insurance plan through my studies at Chico State. Her company allowed the adult children of employees to keep their coverage so long as they were full-time students. This was more than a decade before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—the federal health care law that, among other things, requires insurers to allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

A lot of my friends at school got booted from their parents’ plans and had only the campus’ health center to rely upon. I also went to the university’s facility, but just for the occasional minor ailment and only because the closest Kaiser Permanente, my provider back then, was in the Sacramento area. The inconvenience of driving 90 miles from Chico was tolerable when I ended up having health issues that required specialized care.

I spent more than two decades with Kaiser and its health care practitioners, so the switch to another insurance carrier after college was a little jarring. For starters, I had to hunt around for a primary care doctor and specialists. That was a big change from Kaiser—a one-stop shop—where a variety of practitioners were housed in one big building or a single complex.

The other changes are universal. Like most Americans, over the past decade-plus, I’ve seen steep increases in fees and had to work harder advocating for my health care. In fact, as I write this, one of my doctors is appealing my new insurer’s refusal to cover the medication I need. The fact that I’m in chronic pain didn’t move the insurance behemoth to agree to pay for my medicine.

Still, I realize, in the scheme of things, I’ve been fortunate when it comes to accessing medical care.

That’s because many people—1 in 6 Americans—lived without insurance prior to Obamacare. Some couldn’t afford it; some couldn’t get it because of a pre-existing condition. It wasn’t that long ago that it was common for citizens to file for bankruptcy due to medical debt. The ACA helped to change all of that, and now it’s in jeopardy (see Evan Tuchinsky’s cover story on page 20). Congressional Republicans are planning to repeal it as soon as possible, and people are rightly scared about that prospect.

The GOP has attempted to repeal the ACA dozens of times since it was signed into law in 2010. It was all politicking. Though Republicans have been deriding the law for years, they haven’t come up with a better option. The ball is now in their court. Even President Obama welcomes changes that would improve the law and thus improve the lives of Americans.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, but opponents have mischaracterized its flaws. One of the chief lies, perpetuated by Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan, is that it’s sucking Medicare dry, when in fact that federal safety net is more solvent since the law went into effect. The truth is their efforts are driven by a single motive—greed. Repealing the law will provide tax cuts to the nation’s richest citizens—the folks who pull the strings. This is a high stakes game the GOP is playing. The well-being of millions hangs in the balance.