One of the scare tactics Republicans used during the passage of the Affordable Care Act was we would end up with Death Panels. These would be where government officials would be charged with deciding whether people received medical care. If not, they would be left to die. It was as absurd then as it sounds now. However, in their rush to appeal the ACA, the GOP has made their own made up nightmare into a reality; except they are the ones who have created their own Death Panels.

I am doing something I do not do very often. I am agreeing with Senator Bernie Sanders unequivocally and without reservation or hesitation. He recently stated that 36,000 people would die per year if Obamacare were repealed. I honestly think that number is low, based on the studies I have read. He is quite correct. Many have tried to discredit his statement, but herein lies the problem:

With Republicans’ efforts to destroy the ACA now underway, several commentators have expressed something akin to cautious optimism about the effect of a potential repeal. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler awarded Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) four Pinocchios for claiming that 36,000 people a year will die if the ACA is repealed; Brookings Institution fellow Henry Aaron, meanwhile, predicted that Republicans probably will salvage much of the ACA’s gains, and conservative writer Grover Norquist argued that the tax cuts associated with repeal would be a massive boon for the middle class.

But such optimism is overblown.

The first problem is that Republicans don’t have a clear replacement plan. Kessler, for instance, chides Sanders for assuming that repeal would leave many millions uninsured, because Kessler presumes that the Republicans would replace the ACA with reforms that preserve coverage. But while repeal seems highly likely (indeed, it’s already underway using a legislative vehicle that requires only 50 Senate votes), replacement (which would require 60 votes) is much less certain.

Moreover, even if a Republican replacement plan comes together, it’s likely to take a big backward step from the gains made by the ACA, covering fewer people with much skimpier plans. (WaPo)

What I find interesting, and not the least bit amusing, about this situation is a bunch of perfectly healthy white men up in Washington D.C., who have fat and nasty health insurance policies that will not be even slightly affected by any of this, are making huge decisions that will impact millions of people. And many of those people have pre-existing conditions, serious illnesses, that require good policies to take care of them. The ACA has allowed them to finally receive the care they need. Now they are again faced with the uncertainty and fear of not knowing if they will be able to afford to see doctors or buy prescriptions in the near future.

If this sounds alarmist, then good. It needs to. It should. Unless you have been in this position, you have no idea what it is like. The kind of care these people need cannot be found in high-risk insurance pools run by state bureaucrats. These are the same people who routinely dismiss concerns. They tell people to go pray and leave them alone, or ask for help from their local church.

Most people also do not realize that these changes will affect their policies. Yes, this is true even if they are not on the ACA. Many of the provisions of the act changed what they receive in their workplace policies: free preventative care, guaranteed reproductive care, mental health coverage, no pre-existing condition blocks, etc. All of that could easily vanish now. So if you think you are immune to what is happening, think again.

It would be great to see Republicans take on the ACA as it stands. Then they could fix the parts that are in need of it, and leave the rest the way it is. Unfortunately, blind partisanship and pure racism prevents them from doing anything that actually makes sense for the majority. I and all of my chronically ill friends will be crossing our fingers and our toes. We hope this doesn’t mean we have to go without anything we rely upon to live or have a decent quality of life. Everyone who has any sense should be doing the same.

**Correction: Beginning in 2014, Congress was required to have insurance from the ACA exchanges. The author regrets the error.


  1. It shouldn’t come as an earth shattering revelation that Congressional Republicans care far more about money than they do people. Their only priority will be maintaining the prerogatives and profit margins of the health insurance industry, and the multi-million dollar salaries of the people who run it. Healthcare outcomes in human terms, will never cross their minds.


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