Romney touts the expansion of health coverage in Massachusetts as a great achievement, but he'd deny that same guarantee to millions of Americans.
As Romney aimed to prove that he cared about the 100 percent in last night's debate, part of the stream of accomplishments he listed in his final answer was his audacious claim that “as governor of my state, I was able to get a hundred percent of my people insured -- all my kids; about 98 percent of the adults.” What’s audacious is not that’s its untrue – it is true. But it takes a lot of brass to trumpet as evidence of your compassion something that you are planning to deny to the 98 percent of Americans who don’t live in Massachusetts. That is of course what Romney plans to do with his pledge to repeal Obamacare.
Last week, Romney told the editors of the Columbus Dispatch that “We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance.” Romney is right again, but in a very perverted way. Most of the time people who die because they are denied health insurance spend their last days in the hospital after getting very sick in their houses or apartments.
Take, for example, Tifanny Owens, the mother of Marcelas Owens, the young boy who stood next to President Obama when he signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Tifanny was fired by Jack in the Box, where she worked as a manager, because her serious illness was causing her to miss work. With her job went her health insurance, and Tifanny could no longer afford to get the care she needed. She died in a Seattle hospital, leaving Marcelas, age seven, and his two younger sisters behind.
Of course, sometimes people don’t make it to the hospital to die. Like Billy Koehler of Pittsburgh, who had a heart attack in his car when his cardiac defibrillator failed. Koehler, who had lost his job when the company he worked for in Pittsburgh failed, could not afford the $10,000 to get the device replaced. A doctor told him to come back when he had the cash.
Tifanny and Billy's stories are drawn from my book, Fighting for Our Health, but they're far from alone. A recent report by Families USA estimates that 26,000 people die each year in the United States because they don’t have health coverage.
Last night Romney told America, “I believe we're all children of the same God.” But not, it appears, when it comes to saving the lives of God’s children who don’t live in Massachusetts.
Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.