Essay №8: What Are You Angry At?

Elvis, WWE, Republicans, Spiderman and Healthcare

Healthcare. It has been the debate around the country since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republicans have lambasted the law as “a disaster” and have sought to repeal the act ever since it was signed into law. But before the ACA, health insurance may have been cheaper for a few but was wholly unattainable for many. I get it, I’m frustrated with the healthcare market and the insurance industry as much as the next person who can’t afford their premiums or fear for what happens when you turn 26 and you’re kicked off your parent’s plan.

My opinion on health care is of the many, but a discussion on what we are all mad at over the Affordable Care Act must be had. If you’re mad because you’re a resident of Knoxville, Tennessee and you watched Humana announce that it was leaving, and it would be filled by Blue Cross Blue Shield, I get it. I’m upset too. If you’re upset that the delta of counties with one or no insurer changed from 16 percent of counties in 2014 to 45 percent in 2018, I get it. I’m upset too. If you’re mad because if Anthem exited the marketplace nationally, that it would leave approximately 300,000 people at risk of having no marketplace insurer in 2018, I get it. I’m upset too. If you’re upset that premiums have increased in places where there are markets with fewer insurers, I get it. I’m upset too.

If above is a fraction of the current landscape of the country, let us paint the landscape before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Before the Affordable Care Act, premiums on the individual market were rising about 10 percent a year. And the cost of any given person’s health plan was ultimately dependent on how sick they were. Regulations in the market gave insurers the opportunity to keep costs down by just kicking sick people off their plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, this is no longer allowed.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare in America is better off. Because of the Affordable Care Act more than 9 in 10 Americans now have health insurance. Because of the Affordable Care Act, “129 million Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including up to 19 million children, are now protected from denial of coverage and reduced benefits.” Because of the Affordable Care Act, 14 million more Americans received coverage through Medicaid.

Perspective matters when discussing health care and understanding what we’re mad at is only half the battle. In a normal discussion of ideas, there would be an open legislative process — with committee hearings, unlimited debate and policy discussions. We would discuss how to stabilize the healthcare market and address the issues of the ACA and seek to ensure those who are uninsured and understand why insurers are leaving counties such as Knoxville, Tennessee. However, we’re dictating policy based on grudges and false promises. This isn’t about health care, this is about Barack Obama. The war on the ACA will stand as a sad reminder to the world that Republicans were more energized to send a blow to President Barack Obama than to help the most vulnerable of Americans receive health care.

I write this essay not as an academic but as the nephew of a woman who had down syndrome. Growing up, I spent my childhood years growing up with my grandmother, where we would spend every day visiting and spending time with my Aunt; the woman who had down syndrome. Let me tell you, she was quite the character. She loved corn muffins and Dunkin Donuts and pretending her wheel chair was a race car. As I sat on her lap, as I did every time I was with her, we would pretend our glazed donuts were the steering wheels of the race car: “This is Nick to Auntie Kathy, hard left. Avoid the bark mulch. Over.”

I’ve been blessed to have even a fraction of my life spent with this woman. Funny. Graceful. Poignant was she. She, who loved Elvis and WWE with all heart, was given chances to be loved so ferociously that when she eventually passed, her shining moment would be remembered as the time she kicked me into a frozen pond because she just wanted a good laugh. And side note, I’m still a little upset that we had to throw away my Spider-Man underwear because of pond scum, but I digress, she was shining certainty in a world cloaked in ambiguity.

In life, people should be given the opportunity to succeed. We should widen the circle of opportunity. And when it comes to where we are now in the country, we must know why we are mad. Healthcare stopped being about healthcare a long time ago. But the moment it should have hit home for all American, is when Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided that the best option to fixing the woes of Obamacare, was a 2015 repeal bill that would leave 22 million more uninsured. The bill would include deep cuts to Medicaid as a result of the repeal of the tax increases imposed by the ACA to help pay for expanded coverage.

Medicaid guaranteed my Aunt Katherine in my life.

The short anecdote of my Aunt isn’t an attempt to give some moral reason to why Republicans should abandon their efforts to repeal the ACA and look towards an open legislative process. I was privileged, and my family has been privileged to have been able to have my Aunt be a prominent part of our lives. She changed me for the good. However, if she were alive today she would be a victim of the war on Obamacare. Policies have unintended consequences, I get it. But we correct them. We fix them and make them better. We don’t destabilize the market. We do not just, “let Obamacare fail.”

My Aunt Katherine passed away in 2008, and if she were alive during the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, I truly believe that her circle of opportunity would have been marginally wider than what she was afforded.

I admit that I do not know the solution to fixing our healthcare system. I do know though, that the solution is not taking away health care from 22 million Americans. Take seriously the threats that our own policymakers are preaching. Do not scant those who are striving for liberty and justice. To scant those is to scant the common good. Modeling civility in the face of uncertainty is to give a voice to those who remain voiceless in the 21st century.

I urge all who read, know why you’re mad. To Republicans in Congress, the grudge against President Obama is proving to be deadly — be mad at President Obama on your time. I make this statement in support of the Affordable Care Act: I understand it has issues and I am as frustrated as the next, but if any policy is proposed in which it un-insures a single American than the current percentage, I will oppose.