Health Insurance Reform That Hurts Rural Americans: Whose Bad Idea Was That?

Any so-called health insurance legislation that hurts rural Americans is not reform; it’s institutional inequality, it’s unfair and it’s un-American.

The irony of all ironies is that the Trumpcare or Ryancare replacement for Obamacare (which went down in flames) would have eliminated health care for 24 million Americans, hurting white, rural America most of all. Clearly this bill would have eliminated coverage made affordable for many Trump voters.

There were sizeable subsidies for the urban poor in the GOP health insurance plan, along with a budget-busting tax cut for the richest Americans, but somehow rural voters and older Americans just didn’t make the cut, almost as if the conspirators who wrote the bill actually thought we wouldn’t notice. Since they’ve tried pulling off that bait and switch health care reform scheme once, it is not hard to believe that they will try it again, and maybe sooner than we all think.

It should be no surprise that the race for the vacant seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is emerging in part as a referendum on whether Congress should repair or repeal the Affordable Care Act. After all, it was the House seat of Tom Price, President Trump’s point man who, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, has led the administration’s charge for the repeal of Obamacare.

It also is no shocker that a rural state like Georgia will be taking the lead in seeing any mean-spirited overhaul of Obamacare gets usurped by plans for sensible incremental changes to fix the holes in the ACA. Jon Ossoff, a candidate for Congress in the mainly suburban 6th District, has a level-headed approach, calling for less ideology on both the left and right surrounding insurance reform and health care policy.

Ossoff says it plain speak: fix what is broken, dump what is not working and do not resurrect a system that sees Americans getting their health care attended to in emergency rooms at the cost of taxpayers. He proposes to find a way to allow insurance market competition across state lines, offer small businesses tax credits to help pay for coverage and repealing the unfair medical device tax.

This non-partisan approach is gaining momentum. Even the Georgia legislature plans to tackle the issue in some form because it is now committed to maintaining the Medicaid expansion set forth in the ACA. The not so deep dark secret is that Medicaid and Medicare are the most comprehensive and efficient health care plans available anywhere in the U.S. Expanding those programs is sound fiscal public policy. Of course there will be extremist lawmakers who try to dub any insurance reform socialized medicine, ignoring that sound health care policy and insurance reform are good for Georgia residents and the state’s economy. Health insurance reform means both immediate new jobs and ultimately taxpayer savings.

Georgia has no choice but to take the lead. Anthem Inc., the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, is serious about pulling out of Georgia, leaving residents without coverage. Blue Cross, the largest insurer in Georgia, is currently the only health exchange insurer in 96 of the state’s 159 counties. What is the fallout if Blue Cross opts out of Georgia? Rural residents will be hurt the most, and that includes an awful lot of Trump voters.

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