Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 2:26 pm | A Few Clouds and Breezy 65º

 
 
 
 

Joe Conason: Why Republicans Suddenly Care About Canceled Health Policies

Amid the current national uproar over the troubles of the Affordable Care Act, it is almost uplifting to hear the deep concern expressed by politicians, pundits, lobbyists and corporate leaders over cancellation of existing health insurance policies.

They empathize loudly with the millions of potential victims, whose plight infuriates these worthy observers with fury. They fill hours of television and pages of print with expressions of outrage. Suddenly, everyone in Washington is intensely concerned about Americans losing their health coverage.

The outpouring of noble sentiment would be laudable — indeed, long overdue — if only there were reason to believe these protestations are sincere.

Sadly, the evidence points in the opposite direction, for a single obvious reason: Millions of people in this country have been losing health insurance for years, resulting in many thousands of serious illnesses, bankruptcies and early deaths. But until insurance cancellations became a political embarrassment for President Barack Obama, the usual right-wing reaction was silence. (Except for that awkward and revealing outburst during the 2012 Republican debates when a live audience howled its approval for the "let him die" plan.)

For anyone who has ever honestly cared about people losing their health coverage — for instance, Obama or his Democratic predecessor, former President Bill Clinton — the depressing statistical reality has long been plain. Every day, thousands of Americans leave the rolls of the private insurance industry, almost never voluntarily.

People often forfeit insurance after losing a job, which happened to millions during the Great Recession. At its height, when Tea Party Republicans were fighting to kill Obamacare in the cradle, more than 44,000 people were losing their health coverage every week. In May 2009, the policy journal Health Affairs published a projection that nearly 7 million Americans would lose coverage by the end of 2010.

People also lose insurance because their providers don't want to pay the cost of a grave illness (having gorged on pricey premiums for years), which has happened to many thousands more. The most recent congressional report on the subject found that three major insurance companies had saved at least $300 million through "rescission" of policies held by 20,000 seriously ill clients, which caused their profits to climb.

Nearly half the population at some point during every decade loses insurance because the cost rises and becomes unaffordable. A report released by the Treasury Department four years ago found that almost half of nonelderly Americans had lived without health coverage at some point between 1997 and 2006, a period of relative prosperity and high employment.

The consequence, as everybody ought to know by now, is that upward of 45 million Americans have gone without health coverage at any given moment since 2007. And the further consequence is that many of those uninsured — men, women and children — go without needed health care, leading to untold suffering and premature deaths of as many as 45,000 annually, perhaps more.

But such dismal facts have never seemed to trouble the Republicans who are screaming so loudly now about the terrible toll of Obamacare. The perennial GOP attitude was set forth by neoconservative eminence Bill Kristol back in 1993, when the prime objective was to kill the nascent Clinton health plan.

"There is no health-care crisis," Kristol famously declared, and for him — then a well-paid flack in the Rupert Murdoch empire — that was true enough.

After two decades of medical costs skyrocketing above inflation, threatening fiscal and economic ruin, while millions went without insurance, such smug right-wing complacency remains largely intact. The only "health-care crisis" ever feared by Republicans like Kristol is the prospect that reform will help Americans — as Obamacare is already doing, despite the GOP's best efforts against it.

Let's hope that the president's team swiftly solves the inherent problems of providing universal coverage through private insurers. It is certainly possible, if never optimal, as Massachusetts and other states seeking to advance that goal are already proving.

And meanwhile, let's please have no illusions about this momentary flurry of concern on the right over insurance lost. It would disappear instantly and permanently — if only Obamacare could be repealed.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >