During Thursday night’s GOP debate, a woman from Florida told the candidates she’d lost her job and with it her health insurance. What would each of the candidates do to get her covered or otherwise provide the health care she needed?
You had to listen carefully, but the effective answer they all gave her was, “this is your problem, not ours.”
Let’s first recall that this woman is not alone. Millions of Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance. That was happening before the recession but has become much worse during the recession. That may be because they lost their jobs and can’t afford COBRA coverage, and the government’s stimulus subsidies for COBRA have expired, or because, even if they still have jobs, their employer stopped providing coverage because of its rising costs. Or they may have lost effective coverage, because even if they have a job, their employer-provided coverage is so weak or so costly with deductibles, exclusions, and co-pays that they’ve effectively lost affordable, meaningful coverage. In the meantime, those on the individual “markets,” which are dominated by highly concentrated oligopolies, are confronted with insurance premiums they simply cannot afford.
As FDL’s Jon Walker has noted, America now has the highest percentage of uninsured in decades, and that’s not going to change unless/until the Affordable Care Act kicks in by subsidizing private insurance and providing millions with access to expanded Medicaid. So unlike many of the debate topics, this woman’s question was extremely relevant to literally tens of millions of Americans.
The answers she/we heard cannot have been reassuring. Mitt Romeny said he’d adopt policies that would lead to her getting a new job. Okay, maybe that happens in a couple years or so, or maybe not. But even when, pre-recession, we had much lower unemployment, we still had tens of millions of people without insurance, and those who thought they had insurance were often ambushed by insurance company rescissions, exclusions, denials and then refusals to re-insure those with pre-existing conditions. Millions of people faced these problem before the ACA and before the recession.
Moreover, if these Republicans were successful in repealing the ACA and block-granting Medicaid, as the GOP-Ryan Plan they all eventually suppported provides, then the woman would not be able to get either subsidized private insurance on a health care exchange or government-provided Medicaid. In Florida in particular, the Governor and state legislature have been particularly vicious in cutting funding for hospitals and providers that treat Medicaid patients, and the GOP-stifled Congress has refused to consider expanded Medicaid beyond the original stimulus, so it would be even less likely this woman could get coverage there.
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