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An Army of Newly Uninsured: A New GOP Coalition, If They Can Keep It

HealthCare.Gov does not work, but it will someday. Even if the site has to be deconstructed entirely and rebuilt from scratch, the website will eventually function. But supporters of the Affordable Care Act and its stated goal of expanding health insurance (not care) to millions of currently uninsured Americans might look back on this period as the heady days of promise — a time when they were sure that the new health care system could work. Evidence is rapidly mounting that resolving the website issues will lead to a host of new problems far more vexing than those that currently plague the federal health care exchanges portal.

While even the health care reform law’s supporters have acknowledged the federal exchanges website is a mess, they are not ready to give up on the law. ACA apologists point to the state-level where the real “success stories” supposedly are occurring. Frustratingly for them, CBS News popped that bubble today, too.

“According to a CBS investigation, in many of the 15 states that have their own health insurance exchanges, more people are enrolling in Medicaid than are actually buying private health insurance,” CBS reporter Jan Crawford revealed on Friday.

Of the 35,528 enrollees in the state of Washington, 87 percent signed up for Medicaid. In Kentucky, 82 percent of the state’s 26,000 enrollees were funneled into Medicaid. 64 percent of New York, 37,000 Affordable Care Act enrollees are now Medicaid beneficiaries.

They note that the system as it is currently configured cannot survive if the nation’s uninsured that need subsidized care greatly outnumber healthy young people who will pay higher premiums in order to subsidize that care.

CNN reported on Thursday on one set of clinics in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that provided care to those who could not afford it. They revealed that local low-income health care recipients have been shocked to learn that they would be responsible for a health insurance premium – something they have never before had to pay.

“It’s not clear just yet if any premium under the Affordable Care Act will be deemed affordable at all to the lowest income consumers,” CNN’s Drew Griffin revealed. “Even with a big subsidy from the government.”

But all this is small potatoes compared to the looming political nightmare that the ACA is fostering. Since the implementation of the law began, over 500,000 individuals have seen their insurance policies cancelled… in just three states. This, compared with the federal estimates which show that only 476,000 people have filed out applications (as opposed to enrolling) in the ACA exchanges.

Estimates vary as to how rapidly this trend will accelerate or just how many people with health care plans that do not comport with ACA regulations will lose their current coverage. According to one health policy expert, approximately 16 million people could eventually lose their plans as a result of the new constraints imposed on the insurance industry.

“These 16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law’s benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1,” writes Health Policy and Strategy Associates Robert Laszewski, a veteran health benefits insurer. “Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases.”

Imagine just one percent of the uninsured marching on Washington. 160,000 people all singing in the same tune can create quite the crisis atmosphere in the nation’s capital. As politicos are aware, crises are about the only events which animate politicians and change policy these days.

The Republican Party is not especially good at mobilizing disaffected groups and organizing them into a coherent political force. Conservative tea party groups and organizations are, however, experienced mobilizers. If the Republicans can create a coalition out of this ready-made interest group, there is a powerful opportunity to change the trajectory of politics in Washington D.C.

Perhaps now would be a good time for the GOP to quit the infighting, shorten the topmast and prepare for a hurricane. One is brewing, but it is unclear who will first harness its power ahead of the midterm elections.

With the president’s broken promises surrounding the ACA having become clear to all reasonable observers, Republicans have a shot at winning the support of the army of uninsured. They would be well-advised to take advantage of the opportunity.

[Photo via AP]

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