As the pandemic continues, many of us feel a mix of fear and astonishment at those who push to reopen up too quickly, or who won’t wear masks or socially distance, arguing that it’s their right to choose what they risk.
Others rightly respond that it’s not just their own lives they’re risking, its all of our lives. In particular, the lives of those of us who are in high risk categories due to age or chronic illness are being put at risk by the decisions of others. Ironically, too many people who support safe practices are themselves taking a stand similar to the “open now” crowd, refusing to support presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump arguably has a worse record regarding access to health care than any other president in American history. Though his attempts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through Congress failed, his attacks on the health care law have continued in sneakier but equally dangerous forms. He has refused to allow a special enrollment period to help Americans become insured during the pandemic, and declined to defend the ACA against the lawsuit against it.
If this lawsuit succeeds, millions will lose coverage through the ACA exchanges and Medicaid expansion, and millions like me will lose the protections for pre-existing conditions (in my case, a transplanted kidney) that keep us alive. Conversely, protecting and expanding the ACA is a centerpiece of the Biden campaign. This includes plans to make ACA coverage more affordable through additional subsidies and other efforts and expanding to include a public option.
This would preserve the vital protections of the law, and accomplish the greatest goal of health care advocates: giving every American an option for healthcare coverage.
There is a night-and-day difference between the Trump and Biden approaches to healthcare. No, there’s a life-and-death difference.
I understand that many progressives can’t let go of the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, or the idea of Medicare For All. I myself voted for Warren in Utah’s presidential primary. But the reality is that these candidates are no longer in the running, and nothing will change that. The choice is between Biden and Trump: Moving forward and expanding access to health care, or destroying it.
Tunnel vision that sees single-payer health care as an all or nothing proposition risks the protections that millions of us can’t live without, and the expansion of access for millions under a public option.
I am horrified by those who suggest that losing the ACA would be worth it because the ensuing chaos would make Americans demand Medicare For All: Among other issues, this argument ignores the very real probability that millions of us would see devastating results to our health or even lose our lives in the interim. People making this argument are asking us to sacrifice our lives for their agenda as surely as are those who insist it’s worth it to reopen prematurely for the sale of the economy.
This is not a time for healthy people to cling to their privilege and choose ideological purity over a life-or-death struggle for millions of us. It’s a time to choose between protecting and expanding what we’ve gained through the ACA, or losing all of it. It’s about whether my life and the lives of millions like me are important enough for people to swallow their pride and vote for a candidate they didn’t want.
There is no moral high ground in letting others suffer so you don’t have to compromise.
Paul Gibbs, West Valley City, is an independent filmmaker and health care activist. In 2019 he testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the importance of ACA protections for pre-existing conditions. His writings about health care and politics can be found at entitledtolife.net.