The left is winning an argument about the “huge” problem of “pre-existing conditions”, but they shouldn’t be. It’s an overblown point that does not, and did not, affect the vast majority of Americans. But the left is delivering their message – “Republicans want you to die, quickly” – better than the right is delivering facts.
For example, on Monday night Jimmy Kimmel gave a heartfelt, touching, and tearful recitation of his newborn son’s first hours and subsequent heart surgery when it was discovered after his birth that he had a severe heart defect. The first ten minutes of the opening monologue were perfect in tone and a lovely tribute of thanks from the host to everyone who helped get the Kimmels through a difficult and scary time.
Then came the politics. As I wrote on Tuesday, Kimmel first thanked Congress for adding $2 billion in funding to the National Institute of Health, but then went on to say that people like his son, with pre-existing conditions, shouldn’t be denied health care simply because they have health issues.
The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, whose daughter went through heart surgery at the same hospital and with the same surgeon as Kimmel’s son as a baby, wrote about Republican’s lack of skill — utter incompetence, really — at speaking on such a buzz phrase as “pre-existing conditions.”
On Rep. Mo Brooks’ comments when asked on CNN about the new health care bill and state’s being able to apply for a waiver of the pre-existing condition requirement in Obamacare, Shapiro pointed out that:
The Left has leapt on Brooks’ comments to suggest that Republicans believe being sick is some sort of sin, and that only those who are healthy “lead good lives.” This is the moral dichotomy the Left believes exists in health care: the dichotomy between Kimmel-esque compassion, and Brooks-ian brutality.
And Republicans and conservatives have proved ill-equipped at defending their position as equally compassionate but packaged in a different vehicle. This allows appeals to emotion, like that of Kimmel’s, to shut down all thinking and conversation when the phrase “pre-existing condition” is uttered.
At National Review, Rich Lowry has a brilliant, must-read article (“The Phrase ‘Pre-Existing Conditions’ Leads to the Suspension of All Thought“) which notes that moderate Republicans, who are falling off in supporting the American Health Care Act, are drinking the water on believing the Left’s bogeyman that people with established medical conditions will be abandoned and left without insurance or access to health care. As Lowry states, “…apparently all you have to do to win the debate over Obamacare repeal is say “pre-existing condition,” regardless of whether you have any idea what you are talking about.
The fact is, conservatives well-versed in health care policy, like Avik Roy in Forbes, are talking about the facts regarding coverage of pre-existing conditions and just how simple and not uncompassionate the AHCA’s pre-existing condition waiver would be:
First: prior to Obamacare, the vast majority of Americans with health insurance were already in plans that were required to offer them coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions. Employer-based plans were required to offer coverage to everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions. So were Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs like the VA. Employer- and government-based plans, prior to Obamacare, represented 90 percent of Americans with health insurance.
The other 10 percent were people buying coverage on their own, on the individual market. In most — but not all — states prior to Obamacare, people buying coverage on their own could, in theory, be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.
That gets us to point number two: that in practice, a tiny percentage of Americans were being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition prior to Obamacare. We know this in general because surveys consistently indicated that this was the case, and in detail because of an Obamacare program called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP.
PCIP was designed to work from the years 2010 to 2014, as a bridge until Obamacare’s insurance regulations took effect. During those years, Americans could sign up for heavily subsidized coverage under PCIP if they had documented proof that they had been denied coverage by an insurance company and had a pre-existing conditio.
Suffice it to say that 129 million people didn’t sign up for the PCIP program. Indeed, not even 129 thousand people signed up for the program. Enrollment in PCIP peaked in February 2013 at 114,959.
This shouldn’t be that hard and when appeals to emotion and the “but pre-existing conditions!” phrase is trotted out the only way to deal with it is throwing reality and facts at it.