An ailing Republican gets real about Obamacare

     Sometimes the best way to grasp a big issue like Obamacare is to go small and give it a human face. For instance, Clint Murphy’s face.

    Murphy, a veteran Republican activist who worked as a paid staffer in John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and who has aided numerous Republican candidates in his native Georgia, is virtually a textbook example of what happens when ideology gets trumped by reality.

    At age 38, Murphy is a cancer survivor whose long bout with testicular cancer—four rounds of chemo—has left him with a pre-existing medical condition. Which means that the health insurance companies don’t want to cover him. Which means that Murphy likes Obamacare because starting next year the law will compel the insurance companies to cover Americans like him. Which means that he thinks his fellow Republicans are woefully wrong in trying to wreck the law that will help Americans like him.

    Last week, Murphy called out the Republicans in a Facebook post: “When you say you’re against it, you’re saying that you don’t want people like me to have health insurance.”

    Broadway entertainment

    And the other day, while talking to an Atlanta newspaper columnist, he detailed his situation. Even though he has been cancer-free since 2004, he can’t get any coverage. The insurance companies came up with a reason to say no: “I have sleep apnea. They treated sleep apnea as a pre-existing condition.” Murphy is glad that the health reform law will ban this kind of discrimination—roughly 129 million of his fellow Americans have some kind of pre-existing condition; roughly 20 percent of them are uninsured—and he’s mad at the Republicans, in Congress and in various red states, for acting like saboteurs.

    “We have people treating government like a Broadway play, like it’s some sort of entertainment,” he lamented. Republicans should quit trying to blow up Obamacare, and instead try to improve it, to pitch in and do the hard work of governing: “To even improve it, to make something work, you’ve got to participate in the process. [Republicans] are not even participating in the process.”

    Murphy has been working as a real estate agent: “I work day in and day out to get two people together. If I can’t find a middle road, I don’t get paid.” He can’t fathom why the Republicans won’t embrace compromise and walk the middle road. He can’t fathom why the Republicans keep indulging their delusion of repealing the health law; if that were to happen (it won’t), Murphy says that people like him would be pushed toward bankruptcy and even welfare—”increasing the cost of government.”

    Murphy fully intends to join the Obamacare health insurance exchange program when it launches on schedule in October. After all, what do the Republicans have to offer him?

    They offer him zip.

    For instance: Back in April, Eric Cantor, the House’s number-two Republican, floated a bill to extend coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The idea was to kill Obamacare, but to keep and tweak some of its provisions in order to help people like Murphy. Care to guess what happened to Cantor’s Helping Sick Americans Now Act? House conservatives blew it up on the launch pad. Care to guess why? Because conservatives wanted full repeal and nothing less. Because conservative groups like Club for Growth decreed that a Yes vote would be akin to endorsing a feature of Obamacare—and akin to saying that (gasp!) government should indeed have a role in health coverage.

    Swing and a miss

    And here’s hoping, for his own peace of mind, that Murphy didn’t watch CNN on Sunday, when Tea Partying Republican Congressman Justin Amash was teed up to talk about helping people with pre-existing conditions—only to swing and miss and land on his fanny.

    Host Candy Crowley asked him what Republicans would do to help the nation’s Murphys in the absence of Obamacare: “What’s the alternative for those who now find [thanks to Obamacare] that their pre-existing conditions don’t matter, that they can still get insurance? … What happens to them if Obamacare goes away?”

    Amash’s reply: “Pre-existing conditions can be covered. In fact, they are covered by some insurance policies. But you have to have a competitive—you have to have a competitive marketplace that allows those products to be offered.”

    There it is, Republican stasis in a nutshell.

    Apparently it has escaped the ideologues’ notice that people like Murphy, roughly 25 million Americans, can’t get health coverage precisely because the “competitive marketplace” has deemed them insufficiently profitable. Which is why Murphy now calls himself an independent—having realized that the Republicans are literally hazardous to his health.

    Back in April, Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that she and her GOP colleagues really do need to leave the realm of abstraction and understand how health care policy affects real people. In her words, “We need to look at these issues through a more human lens and realize government has a role here.”

    Clint Murphy is the lens. Take a look.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal