'A zombie lie' that is 'eating people’s brains': Paul Krugman blasts GOP's claim they have a superior alternative to Obamacare
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addresses the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (mark reinstein/Shutterstock.com)

On June 25, the Trump Administration doubled down on its desire to rip health insurance away from millions of Americans when it submitted a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. The timing could not be worse: the coronavirus pandemic, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 129,500 people in the United States and over 509,700 worldwide. And liberal economist Paul Krugman, in a scathing New York Times column published on June 29, warns that millions of Americans who have been infected with COVID-19 might will become uninsurable if the protections of Obamacare are ended.

Krugman notes that there is “growing evidence that even those who survive COVID-19 can suffer long-term adverse effects: scarred lungs, damaged hearts and perhaps neurological disorders. And if the Trump Administration gets its way, there may be another source of long-term damage: permanent inability to get health insurance.”

The Times columnist explains, “Remarkably, last week, the (Trump) Administration reaffirmed its support for a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which would, among other things, eliminate protection for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. If the suit were to succeed, having had COVID-19 would surely be one of the pre-existing conditions making health insurance hard — perhaps impossible — to get.”

Krugman writes that “Trump’s support for the suit makes it clear that if re-elected, he will do all he can to destroy Obamacare,” noting that the president has continued to promise to replace it with something much better. But the ACA replacement that Republicans proposed in 2017, Krugman stresses, was a cruel joke that “would have stripped away protection for pre-existing conditions and added 23 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured.”

“In other words,” Krugman asserts, “Republicans’ insistence that they have a superior alternative to Obamacare is a zombie lie — a claim that should be dead after having been proved false again and again. But it is still shambling along, eating people’s brains…. Unless you’re willing to move left instead of right, by going for single payer, the only way to guarantee coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions is a system that looks a lot like Obamacare.”

COVID-19 didn’t emerge until late 2019, but had it been around before the Affordable Care Act, Krugman emphasizes, insurance companies would have considered it a pre-existing condition.

“To ensure coverage of people with pre-existing conditions,” Krugman explains, “you have to prohibit insurers from discriminating based on medical history…. We could go back to being a country in which people with pre-existing conditions and/or low incomes can’t get health insurance, where for a large fraction of the population, illness either goes untreated or leads to bankruptcy. That would, in part, mean becoming a country in which Americans who caught COVID-19 during the pandemic would be uninsurable for the rest of their lives. Indeed, turning us back into that kind of country is the GOP’s true goal, and is what will happen if the party gets its way either as a result of the current lawsuit or through legislation during a second Trump term.”