Right now, as Senate Republicans literally hide from their constituents, the debate over repealing Obamacare is almost entirely focused on how many people will lose access to healthcare and how large the tax cuts for the rich will be. Essentially, the conversation is about those at the top stepping on the neck of those at the bottom. It makes for a very compelling narrative but it’s leaving out the very large chunk of the population that falls in the middle.
The middle class, or what’s left of it, also stand to lose a lot if Republicans succeed in dismantling Obamacare. The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is medical bills. Every year, almost 1.5 million households declare bankruptcy because they are unable to pay the massive debt accumulated from an illness or accident. Or, at least, that used to be the case:
Filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016 (see chart, below). Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect. Although courts never ask people to declare why they’re filing, many bankruptcy and legal experts agree that medical bills had been a leading cause of personal bankruptcy before public healthcare coverage expanded under the ACA. Unlike other causes of debt, medical bills are often unexpected, involuntary, and large.
Obamacare is not the only reason, of course. An improving economy and a 2005 law making it more difficult to declare bankruptcy also play a part but the ACA did exactly what it was supposed to do: Save lives and make healthcare affordable.
Remember, before the ACA, insurance companies could jack your premiums through the roof if you got sick or they could kick you off of your policy. Got breast cancer? No more coverage for you. It was cruel and immoral but 100% legal.
Insurance companies also set yearly and lifetime caps on coverage. Did you get HIV through a blood transfusion? Wow, that’s rough. Fortunately, there are drugs that can keep it from turning into AIDS indefinitely. Unfortunately, they’re very expensive and you reached your lifetime cap after 6 months. Better luck next time.
Then there were pre-existing conditions, children being thrown off their parents’ policy at age 18, policies that didn’t actually cover anything beyond a summer cold, etc. etc. Racking up enormous medical debt was extremely easy and the United States is the only country in the world where this is a routine problem.
But this is the system Republicans would like very much to return to. Trump and the GOP say they want to maintain coverage for pre-existing conditions and no yearly of lifetime caps but the system they’re trying to create will bankrupt insurance companies unless they can throw people off of their coverage or raise their premiums so high they can’t pay them. We can’t even hold it against them because they won’t have any choice but to reduce the number of people they cover.
This, by the way, is the lie behind the Republican catchphrase “guaranteeing access to healthcare.” Sure, you have access to healthcare, you just won’t be able to pay for it. It’s like saying you have access to food but it’s up on a ledge 20 feet off the ground. And I just took your ladder away and gave it to the guy over there who already has 100 ladders. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps you lazy bastard!
Republicans talk about how they want to foster innovation and unleash American productivity but medical bankruptcies stifle the very thing they claim to champion. It’s hard to open a business when you had to declare bankruptcy because a drunk driver plowed into your car. It’s hard to buy a home and build equity when you had to sell everything to beat your cancer into remission.
No one plans on getting sick or having an accident but we inevitably do, it’s the way of the world. We should not have to worry that slipping on a patch of ice will destroy our entire future and wipe out our life savings so Republicans can notch a win on their belt by getting rid of the ACA.
There are 488 days left to the 2018 elections.
– This article kills fascists
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