THE BLOG
11/05/2013 05:37 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Some Badly Needed Historical Perspective Regarding the Affordable Care Act

I've been away on vacation for a couple of weeks, but now that I'm re-entering the atmosphere and catching up with national events, one of the many things that hasn't changed is the garment rending and disinformation campaigns regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Okay, I get it. The Healthcare.gov website is still glitchy; there are evidently people who are losing their current health insurance plans; premiums continue to rise; and the Republicans along with irresponsible members of the press are blowing it entirely out proportion.

Enough! In the blitz of strategic outrage and gratuitous piling-on, it's time to inject some serious and much-needed perspective into this thing.

First, here are several examples of major government endeavors that launched on shaky ground but which eventually became historically monumental achievements. You might remember hearing about the status of the American space program just nine years before NASA went on to successfully land a man on the moon. This is what the space program looked like in 1960, as illustrated in The Right Stuff:

We're all familiar with NASA's unrivaled track record in the subsequent 50 years. Speaking of the space program, I'm old enough to remember when the billion-dollar Hubble space telescope was a national joke after initially sending back blurry images like this one:

After repairs and upgrades, Hubble went on to stun the world with the most breathtaking space photography in the history of humankind.

Do I need to mention how the United States and President Lincoln were this close to losing the Civil War after a succession of blundering, incompetent generals and a series of crippling military losses, not to mention record-shattering casualties?

So, yeah, go ahead and complain to me again about a (temporarily) glitchy website. Fact: many historic American achievements have been preceded by mistakes far more harrowing than a flummoxed website.

Regarding that thing about various insurance companies canceling policies, what the concern trolls in the press and especially the tea party Republicans won't tell you is that insurance companies are now required by law to offer new policies to customers that comply with mandatory benefits in the ACA -- benefits that aren't included in cheap, pointless junk policies. Bargain-basement policies with practically nonexistent benefits will now be replaced with similarly affordable coverage that includes expanded benefits, including the well-known elimination of lifetime and annual limits, free preventative checkups and more. Now, due to the ACA, Americans buying or replacing insurance policies will easily qualify for affordable health exchange plans with considerably greater benefits and significantly lower deductibles. And anyone who signs up won't go broke if they suffer an injury or accident.

Personally, I'd rather pay a $97 premium for a policy that covers everything, without limits, than for an existing $54 policy that covers nothing and which limits everything.

While reading about several exaggerated, agitprop Obamacare "disasters," I couldn't help but to rewind back to actual health insurance disasters, before the passage of the ACA.

  • Not only were HIV-positive Americans denied insurance due to rules against pre-existing conditions, but rape victims who were prescribed anti-AIDS drugs as a preventative measure were also denied coverage.
  • A Pennsylvania man who lost his insurance after being fired was denied coverage because he had a defibrillator implanted in his heart. William Koehler died at the age of 57 when his defibrillator battery ran out because he couldn't afford the surgery to replace it.
  • Insurance customers with serious conditions like like brain tumors faced premiums and co-pays that nearly doubled following diagnoses -- and that's after the insurance companies often refused to cover certain procedures.
  • Before the passage of the ACA, an estimated 105 million Americans were covered by policies that placed lifetime limits on benefits, forcing too many of them to forego life-saving procedures because insurance companies refused to continue paying the bills.
  • A 2009 Harvard study determined that 45,000 Americans died each year due to a lack of affordable health insurance. That's a new 9/11 every month.

The horror stories went on and on. And had the dreaded "Obamacare" law existed years ago, these stories would never have occurred.

On a very personal note, I lost my health insurance in 2005 when my provider jacked up my premiums by 40 percent. Soon after, I was hit by a car while cycling and -- bingo -- pre-existing condition. Without the ACA, I'd continue to be uninsured. With the ACA, however, I'll be covered by a policy for $189 per month with a reasonable $1500 deductible, $30 doctor visits, $5 generic prescriptions, free preventative care and no lifetime or annual limits on coverage. Millions of other Americans will enjoy the same dream deal.

But we're somehow supposed to believe that a few relatively minor flaws are tantamount to a failed law. I assure you, as time rolls on and more of us see through the fog of nonsense while recalling what the American healthcare system used to look like, the ACA will absolutely be seen as an historic achievement leading people like me to defend this law to the bitter end. And that's precisely what the tea party Republicans are so worried about.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.

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