Thursday, July 28, 2016

In Presidential Election, There Is Only One Choice For Healthcare

by Paul Gibbs

I dread presidential election years, and Facebook has made it so much worse. It used to be easier to get away from the vitriol and avoid political tension with friends. And this year it got very intense very early, as the primaries were more heated than usual. I found myself in the position of staying fairly quiet about my preference, and doing my talking mostly with small monetary contributions. But with the primaries over and our choices narrowed, I feel I can't do this anymore in good conscience, because not only are we in danger of not moving forward with any improvements in health care, most of the candidates would destroy any and all progress that has been made in recent years (and both the numbers and the personal experiences of people like me and many others I've encountered as an activist show we have made considerable progress). As a health care advocate, there is only one possible choice I can make for my vote, only one candidate who shows both an understanding of healthcare issues and a longstanding desire to improve America's health care system. Only one who won't throw away all of the work we've all been doing. And that candidate is Hillary Clinton. 

It's obviously not Donald Trump. Trump doesn't have a realistic, solid or detailed proposal for anything. He tells us his healthcare plan would be great, it would be wonderful, it would do everything for everybody. But he's given us next to nothing in terms of details. And there's not a consensus among Republicans to accept a Trump plan, especially with House Speaker Paul Ryan having proposed his own plan. Both Trump and Ryan want to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and with a Republican president and congress, it would happen. The exchanges would close, causing tens of millions to lose their healthcare coverage.  Pre-existing conditions would again block people from being insured, which would have a devastating effect on people like me with chronic conditions (while I could theoretically fall into Ryan's "except for those with continuous coverage" exemption, there are any number of ways my coverage could get interrupted, and the lack of online exchanges would make getting new coverage that would count as "continuous" much harder.). This, of course, doesn't even go into the myriad of other problems with Trump, an unambiguous racist who has been caught in more lies than all other 2016 presidential candidates combined, and whose dangerous views on foreign policy have caused former officials from Republican administrations to endorse his Democratic opponent.  

What about Libertarian Gary Johnson? Sorry, but Johnson, while seemingly a solidly honest and upstanding guy, shows a frightening lack of understanding of healthcare issues. He even wants to abolish most forms of health insurances, relying on an absurdly naive and unsupported belief that the free market would drive prices down to an affordable range. As an activist who's been working with people who in some cases can't afford the possibility of $10 co-pays or other such expenses but are suffering from devastating ailments, I find this to be the most ridiculous statement on healthcare I've heard in recent years. This is based on an ideological deification of the free market, not on any kind of logic or evidence. He also favors making huge cuts in Medicare and turning Medicaid into a block grant program which would allow states to cover fewer people than they are now, anathema to a Medicaid expansion supporter like me. Johnson seems to me to be a far better human being than Trump, but on the issue of health care, he's not a better candidate. 

And Green Party candidate Jill Stein? While she's a physician, she's also an advocate for fringe pseudo-science and panders to the anti-vaccination crowd. I don't trust someone with such a questionable grasp of medical science to take care of healthcare issues. Besides, while she supports universal health care, any progress that is going to be made on proposals like a "Medicare for all" single payer program would require a huge majority of votes in congress, one which seems incredibly unlikely to happen no matter who wins. And since a third party candidate can't carry down ballot votes with them, any third party candidate inherently helps the "repeal Obamacare" status quo. I find many supporters of Stein or Johnson seem to be voting that way as a moral stand against two major party candidates they see as corrupt or embarrassing.  Sorry, but I cannot let my vote contribute to the risk of taking health care access from tens of million of people so I can feel pure or stick it to the establishment.  I see no morality in that. 

So that leaves us with the much-maligned former Secretary of State. I could go into why I think she's the best candidate on foreign policy and overall economic issues, and at very least the best middle ground on social issues,  but that's not the subject of this blog. So I'll stick to why I believe she's the only reasonable choice for a healthcare activist like me: with Clinton in the White House, the ACA will not be repealed, but it will likely be improved. Those of us who support and defend the ACA are well aware that it's a flawed piece of legislation, and there are problems that need to be fixed. But tell the millions of people who suffer from chronic or potentially deadly illnesses who can now get insurance they couldn't get before that it's not helping anyone. Tell the tens of millions of people who are now insured and weren't before. All credible evidence supports the idea that millions of people have been helped by this law.

Hillary Clinton supports reducing the cost of insurance plans on the healthcare exchanges by extending tax credits up to $5,000 to help families struggling with premiums and and deductibles. And reviving the "Public Option" through an optional state by state process that would not require passing congress.  Through these provisions she'd improve the "Affordable" part while preserving the "patient protection" part.

For me, choosing a president is first and foremost about what they'll do and whether they're qualified and capable to do the job. The only candidate I feel has good ideas on health care and is capable of implementing them is Hillary Clinton. I believe the other three would set us back in ways I can't accept. And that's why, from my healthcare activist perspective, she's the only candidate I can choose.