Minnesota Republicans and the Reckless Ebola Scare

Ebola Scare Tent CartoonThe Minnesota Republican Party ran a fear-mongering ad in Sunday’s Start Tribune, chock full of half-truths and flat out foolishness.

They claim, for example, that the state’s MNSure website is “broken.”  One might quibble about broken — it certainly had some problems getting started — but it did enroll more than 325,000 Minnesotan’s in health insurance.  That seems like a respectable accomplishment, but more importantly, it shows that despite the glitches, the site did its job.  We can expect better going forward.

The Minnesota GOP also claims that 140,000 Minnesotans lost insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.  Here we should debate what “lost” means.  If it means the insured people had lost their original coverage — in other words that plan was no longer offered — they might have a point.  But the implication here is that they lost — i.e., were dropped and left without coverage — and this simply is not the case.

In most cases this so-called lost coverage was replaced with better coverage.  In some cases this coverage was more costly.  However, in one of the more controversial parts of the law, people with weak coverage or catastrophic coverage were moved to plans with more comprehensive coverage.  To comply with the law, health insurance companies had to do this.  The idea here is to get people on health plans that will in the long run reduce overall health care costs.  Plans that don’t adequately cover expenses or provide for preventive care, for example, tend to be more costly to the health care system.  That raises the cost of health care in the United States for everyone.

Romney Care Obama CartoonPeople who, due to their financial situation, would have had trouble paying for the increases qualify for assistance.  Others who most likely could afford better coverage but opted not to do so have the choice to buy insurance that complies with the law or pay a penalty.  Yes, they are indeed mandated to buy the coverage or pay a penalty.  Controversial, perhaps, but most Americans agree that ACA has been a good thing.  In the end, no one lost coverage.  Those people got other coverage.

And this really isn’t much different than what happens in the private sector anyway.  If I change a job, my health care coverage changes.  Even if I stay with my current private sector health insurance program, my costs go up year after year.  My private sector insurance also tells me what doctors I can see if I want them to pay for it.  They approve what they will cover, too.  The GOP knows this.  They simply think most of us are stupid.

They also think we are scared.

Patriotic Vote ButtonsEbola! We’re all going to die of Ebola and in Minnesota that is Governor Mark Dayton’s fault.  Let’s look at the irony of this.  Half of the slander in the GOP ad attacks Dayton’s record on health care insurance.  In Minnesota more people are insured today — 325,000 — than were insured two years ago.  Another 140,000 likely have better health insurance.  Nearly a half-million Minnesotans have better health coverage protecting them from real threats like cancer, heart disease, or even the common flu which kills thousands of times more people in the United States each year than Ebola.  In fact, more people died of the flu in the United States in last year than have died worldwide this year from Ebola.

The irony goes beyond these simple facts.  The one state where someone did indeed die from Ebola — the only death in the country — was in Texas where Texas Governor Rick Perry refused to establish an Affordable Care Act exchange for the people of his state.  Twenty-five percent of the people in Texas do not have health insurance.  That’s more than 6 million people, more than the total population of Minnesota.  Forget about Ebola, as many as 3000 people die in Texas each year directly due to lack of health care insurance would cover.  Overall, adults without health insurance are 25% more likely to die prematurely when they lack health care insurance.  And we’re squawking about Ebola?

Here in Minnesota — thank god — we don’t have that insurance problem because we don’t have a Rick Perry in the governor’s office.  And we don’t have an Ebola problem either.  (Neither does Texas or any other state in union.)  Nonetheless, Minnesota Republicans rhetorically ask:  Can you trust Mark Dayton to protect you and your family?

The answer clearly is yes, you can trust Mark Dayton.  His record outweighs any whining from the political right.  Look at it this way, is it better to set up health care coverage options for people who need them and stumble some along the way or to deny it on ideological grounds, as Rick Perry did, and leave people unprotected?  Especially, if we’re to believe frightened Republicans, Ebola is coming this way.

The Minnesota Republican Party cannot stand up to facts simply because the facts don’t stand up to them.  The result is silly ideological discourse that relies primarily on distortion and dash of irrational fear.


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