On Saturday, I clicked on AJC.com and learned a federal judge in Texas had struck down the Affordable Care Act. The story quoted Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, one of the soldiers in this campaign, blithely touting his office’s good work in undermining a “constitutionally flawed law.”
As a father of a child with an aggressive cancer, I looked at the photo of Carr’s slack-jawed visage and had one visceral reaction: I’d like to punch him in the face.
Now, punching anybody, much less the state’s top law enforcement official, is not a proper thing for an adult to think about.
But neither is it a proper thing for a political insider — a man who for years has collected six-figure government salaries, was gifted a premier statewide elected position by a mentor, and who has enjoyed top-notch taxpayer-funded health care — to toil so hard to tear away such a basic underpinning from so many people.
The feelings run raw.
One of the ACA’s foundations is to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Before, those with dangerous, crippling and potentially fatal illnesses were victims of the industry’s actuarial brutality. It was a simple equation: If you have something bad, we don’t want you. Insurance companies were the real death panels.
My youngest, unfortunately, joined that large high-risk pool last year after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer he is still fighting. I have good insurance. Cox Enterprises Inc., owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been good to me and provides my family with proper insurance, the kind of benefit that has waned in recent years.
But one day my son won’t have that insurance and will be looking for his own. That is one of the many things I worry about at 4 a.m.
ACA, of course, is Obamacare. And the Democratic president’s recycling of Romneycare whipped Republicans into a frenzy that’s still frothing eight years later. Republican Congresses have tried — and failed — dozens of times to undo the law. It even went to a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court and survived. Twice.
In 2016, Republicans were handed all the levers of government: Both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidency. After all the yammering, now was their chance.
Well, nothing. No repealing. Certainly no replacing. They finally did gash the ACA. Last year while voting to give corporations a massive tax cut, they took some time to kill the individual mandate (the requirement for people to have health insurance or pay a fine).
But after years of bellowing “Repeal and replace!” GOP pols this year realized they had to walk tenderly. It turns out people like the ACA. Or at least they like the protections it ensures and how it has allowed millions of those who were uninsured to be covered.
In September, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that 75 percent of Americans worry they or a family member will see insurance costs jump if the Supreme Court whacks Obamacare and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, 60 percent of Americans worry about losing coverage entirely.
On the eve of last month’s elections, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 58 percent of Americans want to keep the ACA, most of whom want parts of it fixed. Some 25 percent want Congress to pass an alternative law and then repeal the ACA. And 17 percent — the slash and burn crowd — said, “Do away with it!”
That’s the crowd Carr was catering to when he announced in February that he was joining the lawsuit to overturn the ACA. Carr, who was appointed to the job in late 2016, was still wet behind the ears on the job and wanted to thwart any potential more-conservative-than-thou primary challengers. So he dusted off his bona fides and joined in with 19 other attorneys general in the lawsuit to kill the law.
They had venue shopped and found a judge in Texas who was dutifully ideological — you know, an activist judge, the kind that Sean Hannity likes to rail against, except when they’re in the bag with him.
But about the time the case was being argued, Republicans emerged from their primaries and were softening.
Look at Brian Kemp. Once he won his Republican primary for governor, Kemp put down his shotgun and picked up his softer side, trotting out his family and saying he’s for protecting pre-existing conditions. I’ll believe Governor-elect Shotgun when I see him produce a plan. And not some half-baked plan, either.
Carr called and assured me he is not for abandoning people to the whims of insurance agencies, as folks were in the old days. He said he has some extended family members with issues. “The last thing in the world I want is to take away their health care,” he said.
“They don’t have to (lose their coverage) if Congress and the states fill the gap,” Carr said.
Carr, who worked as U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s chief of staff, was in Washington when Obamacare was rammed through by Dems, prompting Republicans to vow bloody vengeance.
Carr said that his action was merely based on the law, and he ventured that this legal effort has a long way to go before the ACA is junked, if ever.
The case will likely land before the Supreme Court again, and who knows what they’ll do?
In the meantime, Congress will have a chance to take a shot at fixing it. Never mind that polls show that a majority of Americans want Congress to fix it while it remains in effect. Will they fix it after it’s killed? I doubt it.
“Congress doesn’t act without a crisis,” Carr noted. “This may be the crisis. No one wants people to lose health care. I have to think Congress will step up.”
Somehow his words will not make me and millions of others feel better when it’s 4 a.m. and we’re staring at the ceiling.