I know the news media loves an election, but this is ridiculous.
They’re currently asking how a potential repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act next week would affect Obama’s re-election odds.
The media is missing the point: 46 million people currently lack health insurance, and Obamacare extends coverage to 33 million of them. If the Supreme Court repeals the law, those people will fend for themselves.
And 45,000 of them will die. Which is probably worse than one person not getting to be president.
Lack of health insurance is responsible for about 45,000 deaths a year, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Medicine at Cambridge. 45,000 dead, every year, just from being uninsured. That’s ten times the number of U.S. military casualties in the Iraq War.
The Affordable Care Act will save roughly 33,000 of them (one out of every 1000 uninsured people dies each year).
None of this is a reason for the Supreme Court to uphold the law’s constitutionality, of course. It should be upheld because the law is clearly constitutional, according to a dozen federal courts, various conservative leaders, former Supreme Court clerks, Reagan’s solicitor general, the right-wing Heritage Foundation, constitutional scholars, 70 years of legal precedent, and a guy who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.
So don’t go thinking this is all about empathy for a bunch of slowly dying Americans.
This also isn’t meant to detract from Obama’s accomplishment in getting the law passed, or his broad work in its implementation. But President Obama has health insurance. It’s pretty good, too. We’re paying for it.
We taxpayers are also paying medical bills and emergency room costs incurred by every uninsured citizen who shows up at the hospital seeking treatment. Take Mary Brown, who just went bankrupt due to unpaid medical bills – she’s letting the rest of us pick up her tab. She’s also suing the Obama Administration because she didn’t want to purchase health insurance. (Who can blame her? We’re treating her for free!)
Under Obamacare, we stop doing that.
And no insured people have to live under the fear that an expensive complication (cancer, for instance) can provide an opening for an insurer to just drop their coverage. And keep their money. It was a pretty solid business model – imagine eating a meal and skipping out on the check, only the restaurant does it to the customer, and it’s completely legal. That can’t happen anymore, thanks to the president’s healthcare law.
Reducing the uninsured population from 46 million to 33 million doesn’t do enough, of course. It’s huge and historic, and it’s a great leap forward for a nation that has gross wealth inequalities and high levels of child poverty, but there’s more to be done.
So I do understand the bigger picture. Repealing the law could influence the election (although, honestly I can’t see how) and obviously that in turn affects what healthcare decisions are made in the future. But that’s the concern – healthcare, not the election.
By their logic, the military successes and steps toward economic recovery that take place over the next four years are only relevant to whoever runs for president in 2016. (Will Romney try for third time’s a charm?)
Let this be a reminder to reporters and journalists. When writing about the Supreme Court striking down (or, God willing, upholding) Obamacare next week, try to imagine how it affects the people in this country who need it.