Editorial: The Affordable Care Act, by any other name

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Torn between a piece of legislation they pledged to destroy and the hard truth that said legislation actually helps millions of their constituents, the plan for Republicans in Washington this week seems to be a simple rebranding.

We’ve already seen a cognitive disconnect in voters who consider themselves sworn enemies of “Obamacare” but like the Affordable Care Act just fine. It wouldn’t take much to convince them that Trump came up with the whole thing himself one night while watching old episodes of “Scrubs” in his bathrobe, in the lonely chambers of the East Wing.

The current Republican healthcare plan is untenable, hurting people in the very states that gave Trump the White House — not that this bothers anyone in the GOP, but there is an election coming up in 2018, and people have long memories when it comes to missed chemotherapy and insulin treatments, or unaffordable prescriptions.

So it seems they might let this new legislation die, allow the ACA to do its work and then take the credit for it when things tick upwards.

It wouldn’t take much to make the Affordable Care Act work better in North Carolina. Accepting the federal Medicaid expansion would be a good start. And that’s got nothing to do with Trump.

This Medicaid expansion allows states to ease restrictions on those eligible for Medicaid, and the federal government would have paid for most of it. It’s a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. Without it… well, here in North Carolina, we know how it plays out.

Back in 2011, when the NC General Assembly blocked Medicaid expansion, it was part of a strategy to minimize the success of the ACA. The plan faltered when so many North Carolinians who were formerly unable to obtain insurance found affordable plans on the exchange — more than 533,000 of them obtained plans on the NC exchange for 2017, according to a December 2016 report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Only the state General Assembly can greenlight Medicaid expansion. Gov. Roy Cooper tested that law back in January, but a federal judge blocked his action with a restraining order. Yep: a restraining order, preventing a governor to expand medical coverage to the people of his state. As a statement on the separation of governmental power, it makes legal sense, but try telling that to the thousands of North Carolinians who are paying the price.

That’s why this stance by Republicans in Raleigh may soften as the conundrum of affordable healthcare slowly dawns on these gatekeepers, who, after all, have elections of their own to win.