A Letter to My Conservative Friends, or Preexisting Conditions

4 05 2017

My conservative friends, is this really what you want? Is this what you voted for? At least 24 million people will lose their health insurance if this bill passes the Senate. Many more will likely find themselves facing exorbitant premiums due to preexisting conditions. The high risk pools that are supposed to take care of that won’t work. They’ve been tried before in many places and they have failed, and the money that is allocated in the AHCA to prop them up is woefully inadequate. What’s more, it’s not even allocated specifically for high risk pool support. This is not speculation. High risk pools have been tried and have failed. It simply is not possible to offer insurance specifically to people you already know are sick without any healthy people paying in to offset the cost.

During this debate, multiple Republican representatives made statements that indicate that they simply do not understand how insurance works. Paul Ryan and Steve King both said that it’s not right for healthy people to have to pay for sick people. That is precisely how insurance is supposed to work. If you object to that, you object to insurance, period. That’s the very definition of the thing.

It’s been a few years since the ACA did away with the preexisting conditions shenanigans insurance companies loved to pull, so some of you may have forgotten what it was like – the people who need health care the most simply could not get it without risking bankruptcy. The profit motive meant that insurance companies got to choose who to insure, and they damn sure weren’t going to risk the bottom line by taking care of sick people. That would be crazy. By the way, did you see the Consumer Reports article about personal bankruptcies dropping by 50% since the ACA took effect?

Here’s the thing – I have a preexisting condition. My wife has a preexisting condition. My daughter has a preexisting condition. I think it’s pretty likely that if you yourself do not have a preexisting condition, someone very close to you does. Someone you love is seriously jeopardized by this bill. Beyond that, if by some tremendous good fortune absolutely no one you care about stands to suffer, millions of people you don’t know will. Millions. Millions of people who gained some measure of stability and confidence because they had insurance will lose it. Can you imagine how that would feel?

This is literally life and death we’re talking about. In many cases, it is the life and death of children. When we had to rush our daughter to the emergency room at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for the second time last year due to breathing problems, I looked around at the families gathered in the waiting room. All of them were there because someone dear to them was suffering. All of them seemed to feel just like I did, battered and wrung dry by fear, stuck in an awful limbo, waiting, powerless to offer real succor to someone they would give their lives for. Thankfully, they would be seen sooner or later. Doctors and nurses would do everything they could to help – it was just a matter of time. How many of them wouldn’t have been there but for the ACA? How many of them would still choose to go without it, knowing that doing so would very likely annihilate any savings they’d scraped together (if they were lucky enough to have savings at all) and risk hurling them into insolvency and potential bankruptcy? They may not have all had insurance, but it’s likely that some of them did only because of the ACA. They were going through the hell of a seriously ill child, and in the world of the AHCA, they’d be doing it with all of the extra weight of looming financial collapse to boot.

Is this what you wanted? Are you happy with this? Will your life be made so much better by this as to warrant the degree to which other lives, including lives of people you know, people you care about, will be made worse? I have never understood the horrible suffering people seem to believe the ACA caused, but I have damn sure seen the suffering it eased. If that’s a fair trade in your mind, I simply cannot understand.