On January 12, House Speaker Paul Ryan held a town hall meeting hosted by CNN. It was the speaker’s first chance in 2017 to directly address the American people on the Republican Party’s plans for the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare, if ya nasty). For the last eight years, Ryan and the GOP have fought tooth and nail to repeal the bill that expanded coverage to over 20 million people. With Donald Trump as president and a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, there is absolutely nothing in the way of stopping them from accomplishing this goal.
— CNN (@CNN) January 13, 2017
Unfortunately, as much as the GOP has gone out of their way to criticize President Barack Obama’s flagship bill, they don’t have anything that would be nearly as effective. Which brings us back to CNN’s town hall. After sprinkling the audience with half-answers and inaccurate information about the ACA and Planned Parenthood, Ryan was confronted by a former Republican by the name of Jeff Jeans. Jeff was diagnosed with cancer and given just six weeks to live, however, he told Ryan that access to affordable health insurance literally saved his life. If we repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Jeff Jeans of the world will no longer exist—they will die—and millions of Americans, specifically people of color, will be worse off.
Stop listening to Donald Trump and the Republican Party—the ACA has changed millions of lives. According to the Urban Institute, an estimated 19.2 million non-elderly people gained health insurance coverage from 2010 to 2015, including 2.8 million African Americans and 6.2 million Hispanic Americans. Those numbers matter. Under our previous system, the Hunger Games, more than 20% of African Americans, and 32% of Hispanic Americans did not have health insurance at all.
You read that right—before the ACA, there were more than 10 million African Americans and Latino Americans walking around with zero access to affordable health insurance. People of color live in a country that was built on and still thrives off of the institution of racism, so is it too much to ask for health insurance that allows them to see a therapist to deal with the plague of problematic white people?
It is frightening how little people actually know about Obamacare, but there is no confusion on how that happened. Republicans have made it their mission to confuse people into thinking that gutting the closest thing we have to universal health insurance is a good thing. Along with the millions of people that will lose coverage, a repeal would send the country into another recession. According to the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the end of Obamacare could lead to 2.6 million jobs lost by the year 2019—that’s an average of 100,000 jobs lost per month over two years. At the height of the great recession, the country was losing 700,000 a month, are you really interested in going back to that? According to that same report:
“Every state would experience major job losses. Almost all of the jobs lost are in the private sector. Almost a million (912,000) are in health care, while the remaining two-thirds are in other industries, including construction, real estate, retail trade, finance and insurance.”
When you can’t afford health insurance, your chances for death are a lot higher. And sure, no matter what you do, death is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you should give people an express pass to die. That is literally what the Republican Party is trying to do when they keep people away from something as basic as affordable access to a doctor. As a result, they are being sentenced to death. According to a recent study from the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance.
I’m not sure when this happened, but the politics of our country has become so toxic that we now value ideology more than people. The reason 45 million people were uninsured before Obamacare is because our system was broken. And while there are flaws in the law, they could easily be addressed by our elected leaders if they worked with President Obama. Instead of putting country first, they embraced racism and obstruction.
Obamacare was the redistribution of wealth that Sen. Bernie Sanders always bragged about, but done so subtly, that no one ever noticed. It empowered millions with insurance and created jobs, it helped people with pre-existing conditions and protected the reproductive rights of women. It was an imperfect bill that got us further than we ever thought possible, and now a group of bitter white men have the power to take it all away.
Stanley Fritz is the Communications Associate at Citizen Action of New York, and the Engineer/Co-Host of “Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio.”
The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the individual author.