Life in Wisconsin without the Affordable Care Act

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In their efforts to thwart implementation of the Affordable Care Act, tea party Republicans have demonized it at every turn, as this collage comparing Obamacare to Nazi fascism demonstrates.

Just what would happen in Wisconsin if House Republicans succeed in defunding the Affordable Care Act?

The prospect is too much for Sarah Conklin to contemplate.

Six years ago, the 58-year-old from Menasha was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and quickly rang up $90,000 annually in medical bills. She was hurtling toward her insurance cap.

She says she would have reached the cap this year or early next and, after that, her family would likely have been headed to the poor house.

But the ACA ended caps for policyholders with pre-existing conditions and, beginning next year, will forbid caps or prohibitions on pre-existing conditions for all new policies.

“I’m very grateful for Obamacare. I have a list a mile long of pre-existing conditions and nobody would have insured me. We would have had to declare bankruptcy. I would have lost everything,” Conklin said.

Ending the cap for new policies is only a part of an expansion of Obamacare that will take place in coming months.

Kevin Kane, a health care organizer for Citizen Action Wisconsin, says the upcoming reforms have been shown to keep health care costs down for everyone, but defunding or repeal would reverse this trend.

“It’s immoral that we would even be talking about denying people health care,” Kane said. “We all already pay the cost of health care for those without insurance who go to emergency rooms. Now we want to make sure people get care and they don’t pass on the costs.”

But now, in the fourth year after its passage and after an election that saw the bill’s namesake sent back to office by a commanding margin, Republicans in Congress and in Wisconsin are still trying to get rid of the law. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to shut down the federal goverment if the Affordable Care Act is not defunded.

Conklin, for one, is perplexed: “It just makes no sense.”

Of course, the U.S. Senate is in the hands of the Democrats and the White House in the hands of the ACA’s author, so there is little chance the law will be repealed any time soon.

Devastating consequences

But advocates for the ACA say if Republicans did succeed in demolishing the law, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites would see their insurance coverage evaporate and their premiums skyrocket.

According to defenders of Obamacare, repealing the law in Wisconsin would mean:

More than 63,000 seniors would lose out on more than $46 million in rebates to close the so-called “doughnut hole” for prescription drug coverage for Medicare Part D.

More than 43,000 people ages 26 and younger in college would not have health care coverage through their parents’ plans.

Some 968,000 Wisconsin women and 482,000 seniors and individuals with disabilities would not receive free preventive care, a requirement of the ACA. The effects of this would be felt most in areas with higher population concentrations such as Milwaukee and Madison.

But those figures just represent the consequences of the parts of the law already implemented. The ACA’s major components, offering subsidies and tax credits and new marketplaces intended to keep down insurance costs, are to begin Oct. 1. After that, killing the ACA would mean:

Wisconsin wouldn’t be able to expand BadgerCare coverage to some 80,000 uninsured childless adults below the federal poverty level.

The option to buy insurance through the new marketplace wouldn’t be available for 274,000 uninsured non-elderly adults in Wisconsin with incomes over the poverty level. As it stands currently, 219,000 of these are in line for substantial federal subsidies for their policies.