At first blush, Dean Angstadt sounds like the kind of guy the right loves to hear about. He’s a self-employed logger who lives in a small town north of Philadelphia and he knew with certainty he wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. When his friend Bob Leinhauser urged Angstadt, who had no insurance, to sign up for coverage, he replied, “I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it.”
But Angstadt also had a faulty aortic valve. And as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday, that left him with a choice: “Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die.”
In 2011, Angstadt had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted to help his ailing heart pump more efficiently. Not long after, the almost 6-foot, 285-pound man’s man was back in the woods, doing the Paul Bunyan thing.But last summer, his health worsened again. It was taking him 10 minutes to catch his breath after felling a tree. By fall, he was winded after traveling the 50 feet between his house and truck.“I knew that I was really sick,” said the Boyertown resident. “I figured the doctors were going to have to operate, so I tried to work as long as I could to save money for the surgery. But it got to the point where I couldn’t work.”
Angstadt hoped to work long enough to save the money he needed for surgery, but because he needed surgery, he couldn’t work. What he needed was affordable health insurance – which wouldn’t penalize him for a pre-existing condition – but Angstadt was convinced he “didn’t trust this Obamacare.”
Eventually, his buddy convinced him to do the smart thing. Angstadt filled out the application, signed up for the Highmark Blue Cross silver PPO plan, and paid his premium of $26.11.
And it may have very well saved his life.
Angstadt’s plan kicked in on March 1. It was just in time. Surgery couldn’t be put off any longer. On March 31, Angstadt had life-saving valve-replacement surgery.“I probably would have ended up falling over dead” without the surgery, Angstadt said. “Not only did it save my life, it’s going to give me a better quality of life.” […]“For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”
He added, “A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA.”
You don’t say.
This is exactly the kind of success story that terrifies anti-healthcare activists. Angstadt had fallen for the con – he viscerally opposed the reform law and wanted nothing to do with it. Conservatives had told him not to enroll, not to trust anything Democrats say, and to stay uninsured on purpose, and he stuck to the plan.
But facing a crisis, Angstadt grudgingly gave it a try. And now he knows the conservative pitch was wrong.
We can talk about just how offensive it was for the right to urge American consumers to put themselves at risk and stay uninsured to advance a political cause, but stories like these also speak to a discouraging future for ACA critics: the longer the law is in effect, the more Dean Angstadts there will be, slowly realizing that conservatives were selling a bill of goods.
For the right, it’s a recipe for long-term failure.
* Update: Angstadt told Erik Wemple today that he watched Chris Hayes’ segment last night, which referenced his story. Before this, he said, “You wouldn’t have caught me dead watching MSNBC.” Asked if Fox News had molded his view of Obamacare, Angstadt responded, “Yeah, yeah – they get people fired up. You know what, I really do have a different outlook on it.”