All eyes may be on London’s Olympic Games right now, but it won’t be long before the presidential race returns to dominating the news cycle. As we head toward November, there’s one thing of which we can be certain: there is no way the Supreme Court has had the last word on health care reform. Anti-reform rhetoric will surely play an integral part of both the presidential and congressional races. But, when we hear stump speeches about repealing “Obamacare” (which is actually called the Affordable Care Act), the least voters deserve to hear from politicians are clearly-articulated alternatives of what to replace the ACA with. Case in point—Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin was the first and one of the only GOP lawmakers to introduce legislation that would “replace” the ACA, as opposed to just repealing it. So far, the bill hasn’t gone anywhere in the House.
Voters also deserve to hear politicians acknowledge that today in America, going without health insurance can literally a matter of life and death. According to a recent report from Families USA, 26,100 people between the ages 25 and 64 died prematurely in 2010 because they didn’t have health insurance. That translates to roughly three people every hour. Governors Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas preside over states with some of the largest percentages of uninsured, as well as high percentages of premature deaths due to lack of insurance. They also happen to be two of the most vocal critics of the ACA, pledging not to accept any federal funds to implement the legislation.
Part of implementing the ACA is expanding Medicaid at the state level, which would give more poor people access to health care. While there is certainly an argument to be made that state budgets are in crisis, the federal government has pledged to pick up 100 percent of the tab for expanding Medicaid for the first three years. After that it will pick up at least 90 percent. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this expansion will provide health coverage for an additional 17 million low-income adults and children. The argument that states cannot afford the expansion is just plain dishonest. GOP governors turning down federal funds to cover more people in their states might want to read a new Harvard study published last week. It found that when states expanded Medicaid programs, fewer people died.
The Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, and I urge any lawmaker of any political persuasion to offer suggestions for improvement. But this November, voters should remind all politicians that when it comes to matters of life and death, there is no room for partisan politics.