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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

For me, the fact that Republicans keep using the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – as a political football is a tragedy. Sure, the law has problems, but it is already saving lives and improving the health of millions of Americans.

Thankfully, it seems that Republicans who are counting on attacking the health reform system to get them into the end zone will be stopped short of the goal line based on numbers coming out of a March special election for a Florida House seat

For me, the Affordable Care Act comes down to people’s lives and health. Consider the story of a young man I met who told me that this new avenue to becoming insured had saved his life.

He had some symptoms that made him worry about his health. But he, like many Americans without insurance, ignored them, as he couldn’t afford to see the doctor. After the Affordable Care Act became law, he got coverage through his parents’ health insurance plan, and on visiting a doctor, found out he had stage 4 — that’s advanced — cancer. Fortunately, he got to the doctor in time to save his life.

That young man is far from alone. As of the end of February, some 11 million Americans have health coverage under the new law. Repealing it, as Republicans continue to insist, would take away coverage from each and every one of them.

In the Florida election, Republican David Jolly said “I’m fighting to repeal Obamacare, right away.” His opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, countered, “We can’t go back to insurance companies doing whatever they want. Instead of repealing the health care law, we need to keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong.”

The key part of Sink’s message was to remind voters why people wanted health care reform in the first place. As one of Sink’s TV ads said, “Jolly would go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage.”

That’s an effective reminder of the huge problems Americans have had for decades, when insurance companies could deny care because of a pre-existing condition, charge people higher rates because they were sick, and even charge women higher rates than men. The ACA ended all that.

The candidates in Florida pushed especially hard for the votes of seniors, which is not surprising given both Florida’s high senior population and the fact that seniors vote more frequently than other age groups.

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