(Bloomberg Politics) — Luis Lang, a 49-year-old smoker and diabetic from South Carolina, is going to go blind unless he figures out how to pay for expensive eye treatment.
Lang is a self-employed, uninsured handyman who stopped working due to his poor vision. He’s also a Republican who decided not to purchase Obamacare and prided himself on being able to pay his own medical bills, but also assumed that there would be some kind of government help in the event of an emergency, the Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday. He missed the enrollment period and wouldn’t have qualified for subsidies because, since he’s not working, he makes too little money. But he still makes too much money for Medicaid, which South Carolina did not expand.
“As each day goes by my vision get worst,” Lang, who apologized for grammatical mistakes due to his deteriorating vision, wrote on his GoFund Me page. “And if I do go blind it will take [surgery] to get my vision bac[k] if they can.” Since the Observer story was published Lang has received over $500 in donations, including several from Obamacare supporters chiding him for not signing up for the health care law. (Example: “I really hope that you get your operation soon so that you can go back to work and hopefully understand why the ACA was passed in the first place.”)
Lang’s story is the kind of personal health care anecdote that says something larger about the role the Affordable Care Act plays in people’s political and personal lives. During ACA’s first enrollment period, there was a lot of debate over the validity of several Obamacare horror stories: ads featuring men and women who lost their doctors or whose premiums were suddenly unaffordable because of the new law.
But after nearly two years, and one Supreme Court case threatening to gut federal subsidies, a new kind of horror story is emerging: one in which people who are politically opposed to the law see how much it could help them. Instead of conservatives pointing to higher premiums and saying “I told you so,” it’s the left pointing to reports of financially vulnerable people the law was designed to protect.
In February, for example, The Washington Post interviewed Erin Meredith, a “fifth-generation Republican” from Austin with two children. Meredith lost her insurance after her divorce and discovered that she had a rare medical condition, but her income qualified her for a $132 Obamacare subsidy, bringing her premium down to $89 a month. Like Lang, Meredith prided herself on not relying government assistance. Still, she signed up, and is now worried the Supreme Court will rule against the legality of her subsidy.
“I can still feed my kids and put gas in my car,” Meredith told The Post. “I’m not trying to go to Cancun or carry a Michael Kors bag. I drive a 2009 Mazda, and I’m just trying to make it in my little apartment and not be on government assistance.”
The best example of the conservative-turned-Obamacare-supporter phenomenon is James Webb, known on YouTube as Hot Lead retired. In a video published last month titled “This Tea Party Patriot May Vote For Hillary,” Webb — who said he’s voted for Republicans for 32 years and was a charter member of his local Tea Party Patriots chapter — said that he was thinking of voting for Hillary Clinton because Republicans want to repeal Obamacare. Because of the Affordable Care Act, Webb said, he was able to retire at the age of 50.