At a rally, outside U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s Knoxville office, cancer patients and cancer survivors were asking a question. They wanted to know what the 40% of Americans who have or who will have cancer are supposed to do when the Republicans finish their hasty repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Some in the crowd remembered the days before the ACA when health insurance companies routinely denied coverage for preexisting conditions.
Alexander said Wednesday during the Senate health committee’s nomination hearing for Tom Price to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. . .“If your local bridge were ‘very near collapse,’ the first thing you would do is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt,” Alexander said. “Then you would build a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished you would close the old bridge.
The Affordable Care Act is no better than a dilapidated bridge to Senator Alexander. Never mind that to some of those gathered in front of his Knoxville office, it has been the difference between life and death. For others, the difference between receiving care and facing financial ruin. While Alexander and his Republican colleagues have already condemned the bridge to destruction, Tennesseans and Americans wonder if a repair project might be a more helpful, prudent and fiscally responsible course of action.
If Senator Alexander had chosen to study civil engineering at the University of Tennessee rather than Latin American History at Vanderbilt, he might have a greater appreciation for the possibilities that bridges present for repair. The people of Knoxville could give personal testimony to the potential for repair presented by bridges. In the last two decades, two major bridges serving downtown Knoxville, the Henley Street and the Gay Street, have undergone sizeable repair projects that resulted in both being in better than new condition.
Incidentally, it is not unusual for bridges to continue to serve their purpose while being repaired and refurbished. Certainly, things slow down a little bit, but folks are still able to get to where they need to be. The Knoxville News-Sentinel article stated that health insurance premiums are unaffordable for about 15% of Tennesseans. What about the 85% who are being helped? What will happen to them when Senator Alexander and his Republican colleagues finish with their demolition job? The Congressional Budget Office projects somewhere upwards of 18 million Americans will be without health insurance and premiums will be nearly unbearable for those who are able find a policy. What about those people with preexisting conditions who will not be able to buy health insurance no matter what it costs?
Few people would argue against making improvements or “repairs” to our health insurance system, but tearing the whole thing down and then waiting for Washington to rebuild it does not seem like the best course of action for the American people.
- What about how the Affordable Care Act extends Medicare’s solvency until 2028?
- What about the young adult being able to stay on his or her parent’s policy?
- What about being able purchase insurance without fear of being denied because of a preexisting condition?
- What about the preventive screenings that the Affordable Care Act provides to Medicare participants?
- What about the closing of the Medicare Part D “donut hole” that the Affordable Care Act will completely close by 2020?
- What about the 30 million Americans who now have health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act?
With all the good that the Affordable Care Act has done for so many Americans, why tear the whole thing down? Why not repair it?
When the Republicans build it back, will still do all the good things it does now? Listening to Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, or new Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee, Tom Price, one could rightfully conclude that the new bridge will be much more profitable for the health care industry and less accommodating to those seeking to utilize it.