JOSH STEIN: Affordable Care Act protects people and must be saved
Posted December 23, 2018 5:00 a.m. EST
EDITOR’S NOTE: Josh Stein is North Carolina’s attorney general.
Right now, this very second, I bet you could turn on your TV or log into Twitter and find multiple opposing opinions about a whole host of important issues. It’s enough to give anyone “crisis fatigue” – a phrase I heard used to describe how many of us are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of breaking news happening on a given day.
But what if we take political arguments and posturing out of the conversation? Our government could benefit from a lot less conjecture and a lot more focus on the facts.
Take the health care debate that’s still going on across our country. People are struggling to make ends meet at a time when they also need life-saving healthcare treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), between 2010 and 2015, about 552,000 people in North Carolina gained health insurance coverage. An additional 70,000 young people gained coverage by staying on their parents’ insurance.
The ACA has clearly succeeded in helping more North Carolinians get coverage. But the benefits go much broader. Nearly 5 million North Carolinians have a preexisting condition and could be priced out of the insurance market. More than 1.6 million people in our state have benefitted from preventive care and other protections, and 1.8 million seniors are seeing about $1,000 a year in savings on prescription drugs.
Those are the facts – and the stories back them up. I recently read about Darlene Hawes, a woman from Charlotte. She was on her husband’s insurance until he died in 2012. She was uninsured for a few years and got insurance through the ACA in 2015. Sadly, Darlene has a history of health issues, including an open heart surgery in 2003 and breast cancer. She’s clearly a person who needs health insurance. Thanks to the ACA, she’s had it. Darlene described having coverage as lifting her burdens.
Despite the facts behind the benefits the ACA brought to people like Darlene, the law is still very much in danger. In fact, earlier this week, I filed a motion to prevent a Texas judge from sending our entire healthcare system into chaos when he ruled it unconstitutional. That ruling is in direct opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous ruling on this issue.
Darlene and hundreds of thousands of other North Carolinians who need their insurance coverage lead me to take this action. So does our state’s healthcare market, which stands to see uncompensated care costs increase by $35 billion from 2019 to 2028 – a balloon that will make everyone’s premiums go up no matter how you are covered.
Of course, the number of insured people in our state would be higher if North Carolina’s legislature had taken the federal government up on its offer of expanding Medicaid in our state. Instead of leaving all that funding on the table – funding that North Carolinians paid for – we could see at least 313,000 people gain Medicaid coverage here in North Carolina. Time will tell if those facts will make a difference.
It’s likely that we’ll always see opinions posing as facts. In the meantime, I’m going to pay attention to the fact that protecting the ACA means more people have more of a chance at a healthy life.
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