Nearly a decade after its controversial implementation, it’s clear the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is saving lives. Yet the Republican Party continues its relentless campaign to kill it.
Defeating that campaign could be a matter of life or death for people like Bonnie Sparks, a heart patient profiled in a recent Washington Post deep dive on the real-world effects of Obamacare. Without it, “I would be dead or I would be financially ruined,” said Sparks, relating how she risked — and then suffered — a heart attack because she couldn’t afford her prescribed blood thinner. She now has coverage through Obamacare.
Her story is one of millions. As the Democratic presidential candidates debate the best way forward on health care, they should remind America that the Affordable Care Act, imperfect as it is, is infinitely better than the GOP’s non-alternative.
Before Obamacare, tens of millions of Americans lacked health care coverage, and could see doctors only in emergency rooms. Many more had insurance that didn’t cover preexisting conditions. For those poor outcomes, America was spending far more per capita on health care than most other countries.
President Barack Obama’s signature program required insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions and accept other reforms, offsetting those money-losing requirements with a guaranteed customer base through a mandate that all Americans buy insurance. The program offered to help states expand Medicaid, the government medical program for the poor, to cover others who couldn’t afford insurance.
Although meant as a compromise between public and private health care approaches, Obamacare ran into the uncompromising opposition of Republicans — whose operating philosophy regarding a health-care crisis affecting millions was, basically, it’s not government’s problem.
They attempted throughout Obama’s tenure to kill the program, and after taking the White House in 2017, killed the insurance mandate. Red states like Missouri refused to expand Medicaid, throwing their own low-income citizens under the ideological bus. Red-state attorneys general, including then-Attorney General Josh Hawley of Missouri, sued to end the whole law, a suit that now endangers millions of Americans with preexisting conditions.
Yet today, despite the GOP’s best sabotage efforts, Obamacare is saving lives.
The Washington Post report, based on academic and government data, shows the program — which extended coverage to 20 million previously uncovered Americans — has had real-world impacts on issues like how often people are hospitalized for asthma and diabetes, how many prescriptions are being filled, and how long patients with chronic life-threatening conditions are surviving.
There’s nothing wrong with discussing other ways to provide universal health care, but that’s not what Republicans are doing; they’re simply trying to return to an America where Bonnie Sparks and millions like her face poor health or early death for no reason but a lack of financial resources. Democrats should remind next year’s voters of that fact at every turn.