By: Andrea Lorenz

Andrea Lorenz is a former newspaper reporter and journalism teacher who found her way to North Carolina a couple of years ago.

Let’s set aside the cruelness of the two proposed GOP health care plans for a moment. Let’s ignore their desired end game of having government step out of education, safety regulations, financial security, transportation and of course health care. And let’s even forget that the GOP hatred for the ACA is fueled by their repulsion at anything having to do with our first African-American president.

Instead, let’s focus on what’s wrong with the ACA, and why Democrats generally won’t acknowledge the problems with it. I understand that their energy right now is devoted to trying to save the ACA, rightfully so, and now with the GOP’s cruel attempt at taking away Medicaid for our most vulnerable populations, their focus is on people who will die if the Senate bill passes, again, rightfully so.

However, GOP leaders have skillfully pushed Democrats into a corner, forcing them to stand up for a flawed law that Republicans came up with in the first place and sabotaged at every turn. My plea for Democrats in office, and anyone using a platform to save the ACA, to add this little disclaimer at the end:

*And here’s how to fix the ACA.

So at the end of:

and

and

and

 

and

tack on a consistent message that includes a vision for how the ACA could work better.

Now, I’m no health care expert. I don’t have the answers. But some pretty smart people have shared suggestions, such as the plan laid out by President Obama before he left office last year, or that of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Maybe a Democrat or two have made similar proposals, but it’s not a cohesive message like the GOP has: Repeal the ACA. 

I can hear you saying, but Andrea, the GOP would shut down any proposal coming from the Democrats, they’re jerks. They don’t play fair.

And I’d agree with you. That’s why we need to work very hard at supporting Democrats for 2018. But regardless of whether they can have an effect in an official capacity, Democrats still choose what they say in media interviews. They still choose what they post on Facebook, and what they talk about in self-produced videos. If they start saying it, if we all start saying it, talking about solutions will become part of the narrative, rather than this “Repeal ACA” versus “Save ACA” argument that gets us nowhere.

It should be a mantra: The GOP plan is awful. People will die. Save Medicaid and the ACA. AND HERE’S HOW TO FIX IT.

Because let me share something that the GOP, with their master communications strategy, figured out, and why GOP candidates were so successful last year campaigning on repealing the ACA.

There are problems with the ACA.

Now I hear you saying, But Andrea, the GOP caused those problems. They’ve tried to sabotage the ACA from the get-go.

And again, I’d agree. The GOP has no intentions of offering common sense solutions to our country’s health care problems. That they don’t care if we go back to medical bankruptcy, and they certainly don’t care if those undeserving babies in the NICU lost coverage.

Let’s just agree that the GOP does NOT have the best interests of Americans in mind.

And yet, even though the GOP caused them, and GOP leaders don’t care about fixing them, the problems with the ACA still very much affect people.

So what are these problems? For one, the premiums are too high. Even with subsidies, many can’t afford more than a basic plan. The subsidies don’t go far enough. If you make just $10 more than the limit, you get nothing to help pay the astronomical fees. If you’re stuck in the Medicaid gap (thanks to a GOP statehouse), you also get nothing. For a family of four, a basic high-deductible plan in North Carolina costs about $1,400 a month without subsidies. This is a plan that requires you to pay full price for every single doctor’s visit (well, except for well visits, thanks Obama!) until you meet a high deductible.

This is a big chunk of change. You can imagine how people feel about this who might not have liked Obama to begin with, and are now being told they must buy one of these expensive policies that by the way, you won’t be able to afford to use because you have to pay so much out of pocket.

The Charlotte Observer analyzed the CBO report of the Senate GOP’s plan and found that with the Senate plan, premiums would go up from $1,100 per year for someone who makes $40,000, to $5,420. Obviously, this is not ideal. But here’s the kicker. The GOP plan comes without a mandate. So, people don’t see the higher amount. They see $0.

I know you’re saying, “But Andrea, people need insurance! What happens if they get sick or hurt and need medical care?” Once again, you’re very smart and I agree. But with wages in this country at an all-time low, paying hundreds of dollars a month for a plan they aren’t using anyway, at least right now, is hurting people. They’re thinking about today, not the what-ifs.

Now I don’t understand those people at all because my internal running commentary is a reel of “what-ifs,” but I do understand that forcing someone to pay $100 a month hurts, and sometimes you just need to cross your fingers, hold your breath and make a tough decision on what needs to be paid.

So instead of paying the high costs of the plans under the GOP’s proposed law, many people, especially healthy young people, will forgo insurance altogether, thus increasing premium costs for those of us who have seen firsthand what can happen without insurance, or what happened all the time pre-ACA even with insurance. Eventually those people will run out of money and assets to pay for their care in the case of a serious illness or accident, and Medicaid will kick in (if there is Medicaid), or they’ll just go to the ER, further raising costs for the rest of us.

GOP inaction has hurt people on ACA plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the only provider of ACA plans in most counties, announced last month their ACA plans would increase by more than 20 percent. In the press release, they specifically cited uncertainty about what the GOP has planned for health care as the primary motivator for the increase.

If the GOP plan passes, bad things will happen. But if the GOP plan doesn’t pass, those on ACA plans will still face in some cases, unaffordable, health care. So simply fighting the GOP plan without offering fixes to the ACA to relieve this burden, doesn’t help move us forward.

The only Democrats (or in the case of Bernie Sanders, an Independent,) suggesting a concrete plan are those calling for single-payer health care.

Which is a wonderful goal to have. Don’t think I couldn’t hear you muttering about single-payer the whole way through this, Berniecrats and fellow progressives. And I agree. But that doesn’t help us right now. It doesn’t help people paying too much for too little right now.

What would help all of us is a concerted message from Democrats beating like a drum across media outlets and social media: The GOP plan is awful. People will die. Save the ACA. AND HERE’S HOW TO FIX IT.

Andrea Lorenz is a former newspaper reporter and journalism teacher who found her way to North Carolina a couple of years ago.