By Chris Fitzsimon
May 9, 2014
It’s been hard to keep up with all the stories about the fight for the soul of the Republican Party in North Carolina that have dominated the news of this primary election season.
The battle between the Tea Party wing of the GOP and the only slightly less conservative establishment faction of the party is an interesting tale for sure, but the pundits’ almost singular focus on the insider political intrigue has obscured another story that is far more important to people’s lives, even if doesn’t fit the narrative of the Republican primary season.
The Affordable Care Act is working in North Carolina. That’s right, the much-demonized “Obamacare” is now responsible for providing health care coverage to roughly 430,000 people in the state and the vast majority of them were previously uninsured. That’s the fifth highest enrollment level in the country.
That’s a story you’d think would be front-page news especially given all the screaming headlines about the ACA’s problems when enrollment started several months ago and the fighting among Republican candidates over who dislikes Obamacare more and who will work harder to repeal it if they are elected.
Then there is the $8 million worth of anti-ACA ads already run against Senator Kay Hagan by the misnamed and Koch-brothers- funded group Americans for Prosperity.
Republicans have tried hard to make the ACA the defining issue of this election season. They have been attacking each other for not hating Obamacare enough.
You would think news that more than 400,000 people have signed up for coverage in the state would be a major front page story, but it’s been relegated to the business pages of Raleigh’s leading newspaper and the subject of a weekend story by Associated Press that a handful of papers carried.
And it’s not only the startling enrollment in North Carolina — which was almost twice as a high as the goal for the state — that’s newsworthy, it’s all the other ways that the health care law has already helped thousands of people in the state.
Close to 100,000 young adults who would have been uninsured are because the ACA allows parents to keep children on their health policies until they are 26.
More than four million people in the state with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage because of the ACA or charged exorbitant premiums because of their chronic illness.
Parents of 539,000 children with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about finding coverage for their kids. They can no longer be denied a policy either.
Thousands of people now have access to free diagnostic services and seniors on Medicare have received help paying for their medication.
And it’s not just North Carolina of course. More than 8 million people have signed up for coverage nationwide and 28 percent of them are young adults, the population vital to the success of the law that critics said were unlikely to enroll in high numbers. The doomsday predictions about people losing their health care coverage or being forced to change doctors have also faded away.
All that seems awfully newsworthy in a year when repealing the health care law remains the obsession of one political party and a litmus test for its candidates.
The success of the Affordable Care Act deserves more attention and somebody needs to ask the repealers why they want to take health care coverage away from the 430,000 people in North Carolina who recently signed up for it.
This election is not just about a horse race or battle for control of one political party. It’s about people’s lives.
Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch, writes the daily Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts “News and Views,” a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.