Cancer Survivor Saved By Obamacare Confronts Paul Ryan On Its Repeal

“I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart...”

At a town hall moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Jeff Jeans introduced himself to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, as an enduring Republican and someone who worked in both the Reagan and Bush campaigns. He said that he’s a small business owner who was once also opposed to the Affordable Care Act (rebranded as Obamacare by the GOP).

He then told Ryan, “Just like you, I hated the Affordable Care Act.” Then the law saved his life. At the age of 49, Jeans was diagnosed with a curable type of cancer. Doctors gave him just six weeks to live if he didn’t pursue treatment. That’s when the Affordable Care Act stepped in.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today alive,” he began. “I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?”

This is the question on everyone’s mind. Ryan softened, claiming that the ACA was a failure and that Republicans would be repealing it and replacing it with “something better.” It’s hard to imagine what that could be considering that the GOP has only come up with the same old idea of putting those with pre-existing conditions in “high-risk pools.”

The idea of high-risk pools for insurance isn’t new. In a 2013 article in The Wall Street Journal, Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin detail a plan that would include subsidized “high-risk pools” of insurance plans for those with pre-existing conditions, combined with a tax credit that would be sufficient to cover “at least the purchase of catastrophic coverage.” Their conservative answer to the ACA claims it would strongly incentivize the purchase of health insurance without the so-called “individual mandate.”

The thing is that these pools were available in 35 states pre-ACA and they were largely ineffectual because they were typically underfunded and costs were too high to begin with for those who were eligible for the plans. It’s hard to believe the GOP would now be interested in funding these programs—considering they voted to cut funding to high-risk pools in 2013.

As Ryan set out to explain the problems with the ACA, Jean cut him off saying, “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.” Ryan didn’t quite have an answer for that.

What he does have is a lack of consensus, even among Republicans, on whether they should simply repeal the law and delay the replacement or repeal the law and replace it at the same time. Even as Mr. Ryan made this promise to Mr. Jean, “We want to do this at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill,” said Ryan. “So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time.”

Yet, earlier this week in the dead of night, Senate Republicans took a first step to repeal the ACA, approving a budget resolution to have committees write legislation ripping apart parts of the law—including the parts that included the protection of veterans and those with pre-existing conditions.

Good question, Chuck.

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