With the right wing in full-throttle defund-Obamacare mode, everyone seems to be wondering whether the August recess will bring a rerun of the now-mythical Summer of ’09, when the Tea Party came into its own and changed the national conversation on health care. One question seems to be whether the continuing Obamacare obsession will eclipse immigration reform.
But the Asheville Citizen Times of North Carolina offers an account of something else entirely: A GOP Congressman, Patrick McHenry, getting confronted by a constituent — one Skip Edwards — who is upset with his votes to repeal Obamacare, because of his own medical and financial situation. What’s particularly interesting is Rep. McHenry’s claim that he supports parts of the Affordable Care Act, chiefly the bit prohibiting discrimination against people with preexisting conditions:
Edwards and his wife, both 63, had health insurance until he lost his job during the recession and the East Asheville couple found themselves in financial trouble despite staying relatively healthy.
Both had pre-existing conditions and were denied insurance, making them eligible for a state plan called Inclusive Health. “It cost us $1,300 bucks a month — extremely expensive,” Edwards said. “It taps us out every month. But at our age and health, we’ve got to have it.”
McHenry, 37, has repeatedly voted against the Affordable Care Act, choosing to either defund, repeal or delay it. In defending his position, he said he did agree with some aspects of the act, including ending discrimination against pre-existing conditions and extending the age a children can stay on their parents’ health insurance. [...]
Edwards and others wondered why McHenry would vote against a plan they feel is better than nothing at all. He said he would not vote for something he feels is bad policy.
McHenry floated a few familiar GOP solutions — allowing the buying of insurance across state lines and increasing competition — but Edwards said he wasn’t satisfied.
Putting aside the specifics of Edwards’ case — I’m trying to get more information and video now — all of this raises some interesting points.
It’s easy to rail about Obamacare’s evils inside the safe confines of the conservative media echo chamber. But it may not be so easly for GOP lawmakers to explain to their constituents that they support repealing specific provisions in Obamacare, i.e., the ban on discrimination against preexisting conditions. Indeed, McHenry claims to support ending such discrimination, which Obamacare actually does, even while insisting we must repeal Obamacare, anyway.
Faced with this kind of thing, concerned constituents may wonder what meaningful solutions, if any, Republicans do support to fix the health care system. Remember, Eric Cantor tried to deal with this problem by floating a bill that would end this discrimination — a move widely seen as an effort to soften the GOP’s image on health care — but had to yank it after a conservative revolt.
As I noted here yesterday, as unpopular as Obamacare admittedly remains, the battle over health care in 2014 may also be partly decided by the prosaic question of which side is perceived as genuinely wanting to fix our health care system. It remains to be seen whether suggestions such as those McHenry offered will be enough.
On top of this, conservative are putting heavy pressure on GOP lawmakers not just to keep trying to repeal Obamacare, but to shut down the government to force an Apocalyptic stand against the law. If it’s hard to explain repealing certain parts of the law, how will GOP lawmakers explain shutting down the government to defund it?
It also remains to be seen whether such episodes will get anywhere near the play that will likely be lavished on tales of Obamacare implementation going awry. Sure, constituents who don’t want the law’s provisions taken away may not be wearing funny three cornered hats or holding up signs proclaiming that tyranny has arrived on American shores, so they may not get much media attention. But surely they are an important part of the story, too.
UPDATE: The Dem-allied American Bridge has video of the exchange. Note that McHenry says that ending discrimination against people with preexisting conditions is one of the things he agrees with about Obamacare. “That’s right, just, and good,” he says: