The wide gulf between rhetoric and reality

The wide gulf between rhetoric and reality

- in Fitzsimon File

It is hard to think of a time when there has been a wider gulf between the campaign rhetoric from some politicians and the personal realities of millions of people the politicians seek to represent.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data Wednesday showing the state by state breakdown of the percentage of people in the United State without health insurance in 2010.

Just over 25 percent of people in Florida had no health coverage, many forgoing basic preventive care because they can’t afford it while living one serious illness away from bankruptcy.

Then Wednesday evening, a man running for vice-president stood at the podium in Tampa and blasted the Affordable Care Act that will provide coverage for the vast majority of people in Florida and around the country who currently are uninsured.

There isn’t much talk this week in Tampa of any plans to replace the ACA, just how important it is to repeal it and leave those 25 percent of Floridians uninsured.

Nobody’s talking at the podium about what happens when the ACA is gone and insurance companies can once again deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions or put caps on lifetime coverage for people with a chronic illness or brain injury.

In fact, the Affordable Care Act itself seems to be a far bigger problem for folks in Tampa than the fact that millions of people do not have health insurance.

The Census Data shows that 19.1 percent of people in North Carolina were not covered in 2010. That is the highest rate in five years and puts the state in the bottom third of the 50 states. The percentage translates to roughly 1.5 million people who have no insurance.

The ACA will provide federal funding to cover 500,000 currently uninsured low-income North Carolinians with Medicaid but state officials will have to agree to the expansion and many say they aren’t sure they want to go along.

Funding can’t be the concern. The federal government will pay for 93 percent of the Medicaid expansion. There will also be subsidies to help people buy their coverage who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford insurance on their own.

Nationally, more than 30 million currently uninsured people will be covered when the ACA is fully implemented.

But it won’t happen if the wannabe vice-president and his colleagues in Tampa have their way. They’d rather scrap the whole plan. That would mean more suffering, more people who are bankrupt because they can’t pay for a life-saving operation, more children denied coverage, and more seniors paying higher prices for prescription drugs.

It will also mean many more years of reports like the one issued by the Census Bureau Wednesday, detailing the scandal of millions of people without health coverage, one in five in North Carolina and as many as one in four in places like Texas and Florida—where the balloons will be dropping this week.

One state did stand out in the report, Massachusetts, where only 5.2 percent of the residents are uninsured. There’s a mandate to buy insurance there, subsidies for people who can’t afford it and a broad Medicaid program for low-income families.

Sound familiar? The folks at the podium have certainly heard of it. The mystery is why they are so ferociously opposed to expanding what is working there to the rest of the country.

Somebody needs to ask them. Thirty million people deserve to know.