Every Republican candidate has run on a platform of repealing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The consequences of this would be to rescind insurance coverage for approximately 32 million people.
The Republicans answer to replacing the ACA would be to deregulate the health insurance market and institute malpractice reform. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the GOP’s health care plan found that this approach would extend coverage to just 3 million people and actually increase the overall uninsured rate.
The Republican party’s answer for the people left uninsured and under-insured is charity care. They have not been shy about sharing this “fix” for these unfortunate people. Last month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would “prefer to see” health care “come from charitable organizations.”
Michele Bachmann was speaking to a group of supporters in Winterset, Iowa on Saturday and she was confronted by a woman who relies on Medicaid for her son’s healthcare. She told this woman once Republicans repeal ACA she should rely on charities for his healthcare.
“We will always have people in this country through hardship, through no fault of their own, who won’t be able to afford health care,” Bachmann said. “That’s just the way it is. But usually what we have are charitable organizations or hospitals who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for the indigent who can’t afford it.
“But what we have to do is be a profitable nation that’s growing, so that we can pay for those people who can’t afford it through no fault of their own. Once ‘Obamacare’ is gone, this is what we have to do.”
Igor Volsky’s response in a piece he wrote about this: As the number of uninsured creeps up to 50 million, for any politician to argue that government should outsource the task of keeping Americans healthy to charities is like saying that people should be punished with death if they are unfortunate enough to be poor or are priced out of insurance due to a pre-existing health condition.
What was healthcare like for the poor and older Americans before Medicare and Medicaid
Americans have the unfortunate tendency to not look back at our history and see what it was like when people, young and old alike, could not get access to healthcare. For instance, before Medicare and Medicaid were instituted only 51% of people aged 65 and older had health care coverage, and nearly 30% lived below the federal poverty level.
Private insurance companies did not want to cover this population because of their age and chronic conditions. When health insurance was available, many older people could not afford it. In 1965, 25% of Medicare beneficiaries lived in poverty. Medicare has enhanced the health and financial security of older people and their families; they no longer have to worry about paying for catastrophic medical costs. Because of Medicare, virtually all Americans age 65 or older are insured.
Before Medicare and Medicaid, private insurance companies often rescinded a person’s coverage if they become sick or file “too many” claims and they often excluded coverage based on a pre-existing condition and imposed annual or life-time caps on benefits.
The Republican Paul Ryan’s “voucher program” passed by Congress this year would replace government-funded Medicare and push Americans over 65 into the private insurance market. The voucher a person would receive beginning in 2021 would be worth about $5900 per year. A person over 65 would not be guaranteed insurance like they are under Medicare.
You would have to shop the market for a policy you could afford, and if you have pre-existing conditions, which it is an almost certainty with a person in their 60s and older, you would need to get a rider to exclude these conditions, which is not very likely because it would increase the cost of the insurance company to insure you.
Now remember, everyone who turns 65 before 2021 gets Medicare as we know it. But those poor bastards like me (I turn 65 in 2021) would get a voucher for $5,900. I wouldn’t get automatic health care coverage, I’d have to find someone willing to sell me a health insurance policy for that amount of money. Since I have a number of pre-existing conditions, I suspect that might be a bit difficult. Indeed, I suspect that I’d either get a policy with a huge deductible and riders excluding coverage for my pre-existing conditions or nothing at all.
So when 2012 comes around, you need to ask yourself, do you want the Affordable Care Act that does such things as eliminating pre-existing conditions and guarantees that everyone has access to a doctor, or do want to vote Republicans back in office who have said point-blank they want to eliminate ACA and end Medicare as we know it and turn over Americans 65 and older to the for-profit private insurance system (a voucher program).