What really happens to real people really matters

What really happens to real people really matters June 28, 2012

In his article on the cruel idea of “Health Care as a Privilege,” Jonathan Chait mentioned a spate of pre-court-decision stories:

… showing in human terms what sort of conditions we would be perpetuating in the event that five Republican Supreme Court Justices, or a potential Republican-run government next year, partially or completely nullify the Affordable Care Act. A man will watch the tumor in his leg grow to the size of a melon, and his wife will sew special pants to fit the growing bulge, because he has no insurance. A woman will hobble around for four years on an untreated broken ankle she can’t have repaired. People will line up in their cars and spend the night in a parking lot queuing for a rare free health clinic.

Chait isn’t listing a bunch of hypothetical situations. His links there go to the actual stories of these actual people.

The real man with the tumor in his leg is Eric Richter, of Ohio. The real woman with the broken ankle is Wendy Parris, of Oregon. The real people camping out in that parking lot included Robin Layman, of Tennessee.

Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act was not primarily a political victory for President Barack Obama, or for the Democratic Party, or for the liberal tribe in general. It was, primarily, a victory for Eric Richter, Wendy Parris and Robin Layman and for millions of others like them.

It was a victory for Daniel Menges.

It was a victory for 21-month-old Violet McManus and her parents.

It was a victory for 2-year-old Declan McNulty and his parents.

It was a victory for Shavon Walker.

It was a victory for Ben Trockman and for Caroline Long.

It was a victory for Carolyn Cunningham.

And it was a victory for Jennifer Lee.

These are all real people who will really be helped by what the ACA really does. And there are millions more like them — millions of real people who really need the help this law really provides.

That matters. I’m sure it also has some political ramifications, but those are secondary or tertiary concerns here.

Today is a good day and an important day because Eric, Wendy, Robin, Daniel, Violent, Declan, Shavon, Ben, Caroline, Carolyn and Jennifer are important. They matter.

“We cannot forget the human element,” Dianna Anderson writes. “Women around the United States benefit from this plan.”

And she notes that she is one of them:

Because of “Obamacare,” in 2014, the gender disparity between women and men in health insurance plans will be illegal. My coverage, which is the same as my male coworkers, will cost us the same.

Because of the ACA, should I lose my job, I won’t be denied health care coverage because of a couple of pre-existing conditions.

Because of the ACA, my friend’s newborn who has a heart defect will not hit a “lifetime limit” on her health insurance before she’s even a year old.

Because of the ACA, my birth control costs me much less money than it would have, easing my financial burdens.

Because of the ACA, my recently developed PMDD has zero effect on my health insurance plan – I cannot be dropped for getting sick.

Because of the ACA, my preventative exams will always be covered without a copay.

Because of the ACA, my disabled brother will always have health insurance, even after my parents’ passing.

That is what happened two years ago, and that is what was preserved today. And that matters.

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  • I wish people would consider the consequences of laws more.

    I hear from people who think the parties are identical, or voting doesn’t matter, or maybe a Romney administration would be just what we need to motivate people to turn sharply to the left, or whatnot and they’re treating this like it’s some abstract game.  Lives are at stake.

    Every election we hold people’s lives, perhaps some we know, mostly total strangers, in our hands.  It should be a heavy responsibility, people should take it seriously and the media should treat it as a matter of life and death, not a matter of poll numbers and public opinion about who won the news cycle.  Because it is a matter of life and death.

  • AnonymousSam

    Ugh, THIS. I was talking about how unions are being increasingly cracked down upon and made powerless and a coworker snidely remarked, “Oh well, maybe when we don’t have unions anymore and people go back to working 80 hour weeks with no overtime or insurance, they’ll learn not to mess with the system.”

    I spent the next half hour struggling to think of a way to politely inform him that it’s better for things NOT to get worse before they get better.

  • LL

    Yeah, you know what people think is really important when they say, “This is a victory for Obama” or “This is a victory for Democrats” or somesuch.

    Because to these people, everything now is about Democrat vs. Republican. Not what makes sense or what works better than what we had before. It’s all about taxes or no taxes and whether it will help or hurt someone in an election. 

  • I turned on the news this morning to see if anything had happened yet, it was entirely about the politics.  I went to a bridge opening because I look forward to the new sidewalk.  I came back and the ruling had come down.  I turned on the news to see what it was, it was entirely about the politics.

    Who benefits from it politically should never be the primary concern.

    It matters, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as how it affects the entire rest of the country.  It should be a secondary concern, perhaps and offhand comment or something tacked on at the end, probably not mentioned at all.

  • mcc

    If single payer is what you want, today was a huge step toward single payer. Obamacare has a “state opt-out” trap door where if you can produce plans for a true universal health care system you can switch over to that and the federal government will as I remember just hand your state money (the money that otherwise would have gone into exchange subsidies) to implement it. Vermont is almost certainly going to be going single payer in 2017 as soon as this option becomes available and I bet states like California and Massachusetts will be right behind.

    This is the same way single-payer health care came to Canada– one state at a time.

  • The_L1985

     Even better:  My parents were SO happy when my brother got to keep being covered under their health insurance for a few more years.

    They are still whining about the alleged unconstitutionality of the ACA, as if that didn’t actually happen.

  • I remember reading about that the last time I was in Vermont.

    Unfortunately Maine seems intent on screwing itself over.  Though I am hopeful that we will fix or previous mistake and instate marriage equality next election.  (In a previous election popular vote nixed a law to bring about marriage equality that had been passed and signed.)

  •  And this is why the majority should never vote on the rights of a minority.  The majority never really has the cares and needs of the minority in mind during such elections. :/ 

    As a side not on the thread itself: I love this post of Fred’s.  It really brings it home that this is a victory for all people in America.  This is beyond the political circus. It affects everyone’s lives and helps to make their lives better.  That’s a point I just wish I could get everyone to understand, but some people just refuse to see it that way. These people desperately search for ways to avoid seeing it in this light, trying to get rid of all human elements, and I just can’t fathom why.  It just… doesn’t make sense, for this law benefits them as well, and yet they are willing to fight against their own interests for what?  A world that is worse than the one we currently have? 

    I’d like to think these people aren’t stupid, but sometimes these groups of people are either so brainwashed that they can’t think straight, or they really are stupid, or else they are just hateful and malicious.  I think I remember Fred writing posts discussing these possibilities in the past.  Anyway,  I suppose, in the end, I’ll never really understand those types of people.  Though I do feel bad sometimes for them because they’re not only hurting others but also themselves.

  • Tricksterson

    “WHo benefits from it politically should never be the primary concern.”

    But it always will be, world without end amen.

  •  Well what are we supposed to do when the Republicans define themselves entirely by opposition to whatever Democrats propose? Consider this: it is now the stated position of the GOP to be in favor of deliberate waste! Fuel efficiency standards should be gutted so that our cars will get less gas mileage. We should refuse to buy energy efficient bulbs and instead buy the most inefficient ones available. It is better to build more freeways to get clogged up than to invest in high speed rail. Etc, etc, etc. The GOP genuinely believes that Americans should be as wasteful as possible because somehow inexplicably proves what an awesome nation we are. And for no other reason than the fact that the Democrats are now associated with environmentalist causes and so the GOP must reflexively oppose those causes to the point of making it a legislative priority to build a huge oil pipeline across the aquifer that supplies fresh water to half a dozen states!

  •  This is how a lot of things are treated, actually. A horrific natural disaster or environmental catastrophe is a “blow” to the incumbent. Staggering corruption benefits the opposition.

  • J_Enigma32

    I dunno. That’s the only way some people will ever learn. I explained how the Iron Law of Wages worked to a libertarian and I was point-blank told that they’d rather live under that than under a government that made things fair for everyone. It’s like they want it, because they’re deluded enough to think they might benefit from it.

    The only way for them to know is for them to find out the hard way.

  • AnonymousSam

    I take exception to teaching the minority of stupids by punishing the majority of innocents.

  • I think you have it wrong way ’round, but agree with your point even if the majority is stupid. 

  • AnonymousSam

    I may have been overly optimistic there, yes. :p

  • Nequam

    Well what are we supposed to do when the Republicans define themselves entirely by opposition to whatever Democrats propose?

    Spread it around that liberals really hate it when you drink bleach?

  • Jurgan

    Wait, what conservative Republican favored single payer health insurance?

  • mcc

    Uhh… Teddy Roosevelt?

    *checks google*

    Yeah, Teddy Roosevelt. Well, he was a Republican anyway. Sort of.

  • J_Enigma32

     I never said I agreed with it.

    I’m just left wondering how much of a “minority” they really are.  On good days, I’m all for believing that they make a small but vocal minority who are good at making themselves appear larger than they actually are – political peacocks.

    On bad days, I look around and find myself the only person who believes the contrary – and I’m highly unwelcome for it.

  • TheDarkArtist

    So, this makes Obama officially the Anti-Christ, right? Cause there’s a big ol’ Checklist of Doom that he needs to get underway, here. Frickin’ Rapture hasn’t even happened yet, sheesh.

  • PJ Evans

     The Republicans then were more like the Democrats now.
    I keep wondering it the GOP made a deal with Satan for a ‘permanent majority’ and didn’t check the contract: they get a ‘permanent majority’, but only in a minority of states. I think we’re seeing the payment being collected.

  • Tricksterson

    A Republican that wound up running on the Progressive Party yicket when he went for the a third, nonconsecutive, term.

  • Tricksterson

    It did actually, in 1987.  Noone noticed because only fifty people worldwide qualified  inder the guidelines of being “real true Christians” and half of them were non-Christians.

  • Lori


    or maybe a Romney administration would be just what we need to motivate people to turn sharply to the left  

    If 8 years of Bush the Lesser, including 2 unnecessary wars & the destruction of a great American city & the near total meltdown of the global economy, didn’t do it why exactly do they think Romney will? “Worse than Shrub” is a pretty low bar to limbo under.

  • This is a victory for me. Should my mental health improve to the point that I can work again and get off of Social Security Disability, I will be able to buy health insurance without being rejected for my end-stage renal failure.

  • mcc

    Also, wait, wow, I just reread this more closely. I actually personally know one of the seven “a victory for” people Fred mentions. ^_^

  • RE: The GOP deal with Satan. I often will refer to the Neoconservative think tank “Project for the New American Century” as “Project for the New Satanic Century”. I think it sounds closer to their goals. 

  •  It’s kind of like how so many people thought that, if the ACA was overturned, it would somehow force Congress to consider a single-payer system to replace it. Because, you know, if there’s anything that the Tea Party that controls the House  really supports, it’s the idea of government-funded health care for everyone.

  • It’s far more likely for single-payer to evolve out of the now fairly entrenched ACA, as the less competitive insurers have to declare bankruptcy and be taken over by better insurers, since the law bans inclusion of “fluff” into the allowable ratio between insurance payouts and non-insurance operating expenses. So the insurers that can’t get competitive to stay within the law will likely leave the market. This will likely bias towards nonprofits and away from purely corporate insurers, paving the way to government takeover to mazimize efficiency via a single insurer.

    In Canada, for example, the province of Alberta basically just bought out MSI, the then-current largest provincial health insurer, when implementing provincial universal health insurance.

  • Tonio

    I wanted a radical socialist who would implement single payer and raise taxes on the rich.

    I assume “radical socialist” was meant to be facetious, a jab at how the Overton window includes Ebenezer Scroogeism.

  • Tonio

     My own hope was that an overturning of ACA would lead to enough public outrage  that this fall’s elections would see numerous Tea Partyers voted out, along with increased pressure on moderate Democrats to support single-payer. Not quite “forcing” Congress to consider it, but more like energizing supporters and showing people on the fence what’s at stake.

  • The danger of doing the equivalent of betting big or going home in politics is sometimes you don’t win.

    That said, anybody who seriously attempts to claim that there’s “bipartisan” support for the ACA at this point hasn’t noticed how monopartisan the voting patterns are for the original reconciliation law.

    Republicans have perfected the art of making shit up to get upset about, including telling falsehoods about the ACA.

  • Münchner Kindl

    The second linked article was a bit shocking to me: the state of Oregon actually thought holding a lottery to decide who gets care and who doesn’t is a good idea? Even considering that visas are done by lottery in the US, I’m still surprised.

    However, this part

    In a continuing study, an all-star group of researchers following Ms. Parris and tens of thousands of other Oregonians has found that gaining insurance makes people feel healthier, happier and more financially stable. The insured also spend more on health care, dashing some hopes of preventive-medicine advocates who have argued that coverage can save money — by keeping people out of emergency rooms, for instance. In Oregon, the newly insured spent an average of $778 a year, or 25 percent, more on health care than those who did not win insurance.

    is either bad reporting or bad work by the study authors: the article itself mentions how during previous uninsured periods the people have let conditions worsen – one example a woman lost a toe to complications from diabetes – so of course they will have higher costs once they get healthcare to catch up! Duh.

    No mention is made whether the study corrected for this, or how the cost development was once the pre-existing conditions had been dealt with, which would be the significant point.

  • JonathanPelikan

    I don’t know that it would work that way. Any time we go ‘and when things get just that much worse, then people will realize!’ Well, it worked for about a year after George W. Bush wrecked this country into burning debris for two full terms, but after that? Here came the Teabaggers and the Center and the Media all decided that, well. Past’s the past. Let’s move forward with commonsense freedomsense Romney-ish solutions!

    If things getting worse ever manages to shock enough people loose in order to actually affect change in this country, it obviously doesn’t last very long without s lot of help along the way. And I’d still say these sorts of backhanded victories aren’t worth the price. Scott Walker’s outrages sure motivated the Democrats and our base to rally around getting him out, but he still did his damage, he still betrayed this country like the fucking piece of shit Republican bastard he is, and he didn’t even lose the recall. His tactics were monstrous, illegal, unethical, and unthinkable, and yet. He won. Still winning, too.

    I keep referring to the Professional Left, but their comment on this matter was something along the lines of ‘a fire alarm going off is important, but without the fire department there to respond… the building still burns down.’ So when Republicans do keep tripping America’s bullshit detector, we’ve got to be there to push like Hell every single time. We can’t leave anything to the John Kerry-eque ‘well people will just realize on their own how ridiculous these assertions are’ because we tend to get slaughtered that way.

    (Not saying that’s what you’re saying, I’m just speaking generally about the sort of ‘then people will realize’ talk floating around.)

    (And nothing would make me happier than to get proven wrong and cynical with a mass uprising against the embarrassment and dishonor of the Republican Party in the Fall.)

  •  Yeah. Creative destruction is certainly possible… hell, I’m still in better shape than I was before my stroke… but it’s not the way to bet.

  • Münchner Kindl

    hell, I’m still in better shape than I was before my stroke… but it’s not the way to bet.

    “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger!”

    – “And that which does kill us, makes us dead!”

    (Paraphrased from two Pterry characters – I think Carpe Jugulum)

  • mcc

    “My own hope was that an overturning of ACA would lead to enough public outrage that this fall’s elections…”
    Before the ACA was upheld, a CNN poll showed that 22% of the public would be disappointed if the ACA was struck down. Not, “would be angered and overturn cars and legislative bodies”. Would be “disappointed”. 28% said they’d be pleased if it was upheld. Larger numbers felt strongly about getting it struck down.


    That was two days ago. Polls today show we’re up to an even 46%-46% split of the public agreeing/disagreeing with the decision that was actually handed down. The left is energized. People are jumping on board with the bill who probably wouldn’t have been thinking about it a year ago.

    What was that quote? From Gatsby, I think was where I saw it. “Nothing succeeds like success”. This is a win for universal health care, therefore it makes more universal health care in future easier. This is an accomplishment by Democrats, therefore it makes it easier for Democrats to argue why they should be voted for this November. On the other hand, why would we have expected that the left would be galvanized into angry action in response to Roberts striking down a bill almost nobody understands and that has been widely described as fascist even by self-identified leftists?

  • History shows that people don’t always change their positions when things beome truly horrible – just ask Mr. Gatling, who wanted to make a weapon so horrible that nobody would want to go to war anymore.

  • Tonio

    I suppose I was thinking of the years leading to the Civil War – the Taney decision galvanized abolitionists and the Brown raid galvanized slave owners. I was imagining that if the Court had rejected the individual mandate, this would convince many moderates that opponents aren’t interested in reform at all and have been negotiating in bad faith – just as advocates of single-payer have been saying all along.

  • JonathanPelikan

    I’ve long seen it theorized that the only even partially effective deterrent weapon in the history of the human race was nukes, and a lot of the reason behind that was that, in the event of a full-out nuclear war, the ruling classes would suffer along with everyone else. With a machine gun, well, just send the young off to get ground up like hamburger and sit back, etc. The President was never going to be in front of a machine gun nest.

    Nukes? If you invite that sort of war you’ll get it too, no matter how much you prepare, stockpile, bunker down, etc. Something to that effect.

  •  That’s less plausible, but still pretty implausible. After the Democrats got burned on a health care law that should have been pretty easy to get a slam-dunk on bipartisan-wise (it was based on a popular law enacted by a Republican, and was designed at least in part by a conservative think tank), I really think they would have been less rather than more likely to try another difficult fight on the same topic, especially since it is almost impossible that Democrats will have their filibuster-proof super-majority again this year no matter who wins the presidential race. (Remember, if the Democrats hadn’t had that 60 votes to start with, even a timid attempt at health care reform probably would never have been enacted; it would have been dead in the water, no matter what form it took).

    Democratic politicians aren’t really legendary for their courage, unity and perseverence in the face of fierce opposition. That’s not to say that there aren’t any strong leaders in the party, just that you pretty much need lockstep unanimity and unflappable determination to get anything like single-payer done in this climate, and the Democrats won’t have it if they get humiliated by a Supreme Court reversal.