by Jordan Roberts
Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
Election day for the 2018 midterms is rapidly approaching for what is sure to be another contentious election cycle. The political ads on TV or radio have infiltrated the airwaves and campaign signs line the streets. Health care is one of the most important campaign issues for North Carolinians, and most citizens in the country. Incumbents and challengers are touting their record on healthcare, where there have been lots of promises, but very little action on healthcare.
One issue that is very widespread in the health care debate is the issue of protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included many provisions that would prohibit insurers from denying people coverage if they had a pre-existing condition. The ACA is being challenged in court currently by Republican state attorneys general in an effort to have the law struck down on constitutional grounds. Enter the current debate surrounding healthcare between Republicans and Democrats.
To me, the ACA is wrongly used as the status quo for the direction of healthcare policy debate. What I mean is that any action in an attempt to change the ACA is often described by ACA-supporters as “sabotaging people’s healthcare” when this really isn’t the outcome that anyone who is in favor of repealing the law is rooting for. Opponents of the ACA don’t want people to suffer because they don’t have health insurance, those individuals want to make the whole system more affordable and reverse the “federally-mandated, one-size-fits-all” approach to providing citizens with coverage. Why is it that the only two stances for someone in the current policy debate to hold are you are either a monster because you want the ACA repealed or you don’t believe the ACA goes far enough in its involvement in the US healthcare system?
You can repeal the ACA, while still leaving it up to the states to create their own insurance markets to protect their high-risk citizens. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. ACA opponents prefer this approach, rather than a federally managed system. I felt the same frustration when Charles Blahous’s research paper was released that calculated the cost of the Medicare-For-All proposal that Sen. Bernie Sanders has suggested. Balhous’s final numbers were using the lower end estimates for what the program might cost, which happened to be lower than current projections under the status quo. Democrats and progressive liberals cried out that this program would save us an enormous amount in the long run. Ignoring the fact that most didn’t care to take the time to read the article and realize these estimates were the more favorable to the program’s cost – this was the new status quo option for the time – either we stick with our current system or move to Medicare for all. My reply to that statement: these are not the only two options!!
It’s the same feeling with the current discussion of pre-existing condition protections and the action surrounding the ACA. Leaving those protections in place and the court striking down the ACA are not the only two possible courses of action for this point in the healthcare policy debate. It’s my hope that people understand those who don’t support the ACA approach to health care, don’t want the end result that so many on the left are assuming: strip health care from everyone. No, the support for repealing the ACA comes from the preferment of a system in which the federal government is not behind the wheel.