The Affordable Care Act is back in news lately. But most of the headlines have not been about the benefits offered by the law, the millions of people it has already helped, or the upcoming enrollment period for individual insurance plans, but the absurd battle inside the Republican Party to hold the federal government and the economic well-being of the country hostage to repeal it.
The far-right tea party wing of the GOP is insisting that Republicans force a shutdown of the federal government unless the ACA is defunded. North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr called that plan the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard of, promoting outage on the far right.
Many of Burr’s Republican colleagues in Congress are bowing to the pressure of those fringe elements that now dominate their party and are actually supporting a government shutdown or a refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which could have disastrous consequences for the economy.
All because they don’t like a health care law passed by Congress and signed by a president who was then comfortably reelected. The public might be divided over the Affordable Care Act, though support for the law increases when people hear more about what it actually does.
But regardless of what they think of the health care law, the American people don’t want social security checks frozen and national parks closed because a block of extremist politicians can’t seems to find any other way to punish the president they loathe and pander to their loud and extremist base.
There are other stories about the Affordable Care Act that don’t make the headlines as often as the tea party threat to our democracy, but they are just as important to people’s daily lives, if not more so.
Starting October 1, individuals and small businesses in North Carolina and across the country will have the chance to find health care coverage that fits their budgets through the health care marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act.
More than 1.2 million people in our state currently have no insurance even though almost a million of them have a full-time worker in the family.
Small businesses can use the marketplace too. So can people who currently have exorbitantly expensive or woefully inadequate plans. Tax credits make the premiums even lower for families that qualify.
States that have already announced their 2014 health care plans are seeing lower rates. Premiums in places like New York, California, Louisiana, and Connecticut are falling or are below predictions.
That’s just one part of the story that deserves more attention. Then there are the millions of people who have already been helped by the ACA. Three million young adults up to age 26 are currently covered on their parents’ health plan, 95,000 of them in North Carolina.
More than 539,000 children in the state with a pre-existing health condition can no longer be denied coverage. Next year the 4 million non elderly adults in North Carolina with a pre-existing condition will receive the same protections.
There are no longer lifetime caps on coverage thanks to the ACA and many preventive services must be provided with no copayment or cost sharing.
There is plenty more good the Affordable Act is doing for millions of people in North Carolina now and more good it will do next year, whether the General Assembly or the tea partiers like it or not.
It boils down to more health care coverage for more children and families that fits their budgets, and more help for small businesses and people with pre-existing conditions or special needs.
And yet for some reason a significant part of the Republican Party wants to literally shutdown government to make sure the help doesn’t reach the millions of people the politicians are supposed to represent.
The disconnect is staggering.
Maybe that’s the headline we need to see.