File Photo: Opponents of the Affordable Care Act rally before the Supreme announces its decision about the constitutionality of the president's efforts on...
Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call, File

‘Literally, people thought there would be chips embedded in their bodies’

The current, ongoing debate over health care policy has been raging for nearly five years now and many of us know the drill: we hear the ridiculous conspiracy theories, roll our eyes, and wonder what possesses conservatives to repeat such nonsense out loud.
 
But it’s easy to lose sight of an unsettling truth: they repeat the talking points because, in some cases, they work – there are people out there who don’t realize it’s nonsense.
 
Jackie Calmes had a depressing report out of Huntington, W.Va., where public-health officials often find themselves discouraged by local residents who, for a variety of reasons, have come to believe some pretty odd things about the Affordable Care Act.
Health professionals, state officials, social workers, insurance agents and others trying to make the law work for uninsured Americans say the partisan divisions and attack ads have depressed participation in some places. They say the law has been stigmatized for many who could benefit from it, especially in conservative states like West Virginia that have the poorest, most medically underserved populations but where President Obama and his signature initiative are hugely unpopular. […]
 
“The controversy about Obamacare does seem to have interfered with people’s ability to sort out the value of the marketplace for getting health insurance for themselves,” said Dr. James B. Becker, associate professor of the Marshall University School of Medicine and medical director of the state’s Medicaid program.
Perry Bryant, head of the advocacy group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, added that political polarization “complicates our efforts to enroll people and to educate people about the Affordable Care Act, there’s no question.”
 
“Literally, people thought there would be chips embedded in their bodies if they signed up for Obamacare,” Bryant said.
 
ACA enrollment totals are quite good, but let’s not forget that they’d be even better if the right hadn’t successfully lied quite so often.
 
Indeed, let’s not brush past the motivations of those who talked up “death panels” and somehow persuaded some folks that “there would be chips embedded in their bodies.” Their principal focus wasn’t on consumers’ wellbeing; it was the opposite – undermining “Obamacare” was deemed more important than looking out for their best interests.
 
Think about that mentality for a minute. Many of these Americans are struggling and could use a hand. The Affordable Care Act, in effect, could be a life preserver thrown at a critical moment.
 
The right’s job was to convince these Americans not to take it, because any life preserver from President Obama must be a life preserver to avoid, even if drowning was a possible alternative.
 
I’m curious. When conservatives hear about struggling families not getting coverage because they fear death panels and secret microchips, do they feel a sense of pride? Do they see it as evidence of a job well done?
 

Affordable Care Act, Obamacare and West Virginia

'Literally, people thought there would be chips embedded in their bodies'