Opinion: Twenty-First Century America’s ‘Pre-Existing Condition’

May 11 2017
Posted by: Staff
Opinion: Twenty-First Century America’s ‘Pre-Existing Condition’

By: Brady Banks

Late night television has been awash with vignettes about the new GOP amendment to the American Health Care Act. A favorite target is the draconian approach Republicans have taken toward people with pre-existing conditions. It’s quick and easy comedic fodder. 

Stephen Colbert leaned into the amendment’s removal of premium cost caps for those with pre-existing conditions. The provision technically allows them to qualify for a plan, but also allows states and companies to seek waivers so they can increase the cost of their plan. 

Colbert couldn’t resist the provision’s inanity. He said it would be like him saying “How I can 'technically' hire Bruce Springsteen to play my birthday party, but I can only afford Brice Stringstone.”

Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional monologue about his newborn son’s pre-existing heart condition at birth took the critique to new heights. “No parent should have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” Kimmel shared as his voice broke.

The reality is that one in four Americans under the age of 65 lives with a pre-existing condition, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Sometimes those conditions were preventable, other times they were not. No matter how their condition came about, for 52 million Americans, the new amendment to the AHCA only punishes them. 

The amendment bases premium subsidies off of age, rather than income, eliminating much needed assistance for those with lower incomes and further isolating younger generations of Americans who already can’t afford health care. 

The amendment even cuts taxes for companies and wealthier Americans in the process.

The GOP resorted to their old playbook. Holding fast to a strange mixture of Randian and Darwinian philosophies, they have effectively communicated that, if you have trouble affording health care or have a pre-existing condition, it’s your own fault and you should – literally – pay for it.

This philosophy is flaunted openly in public debate. It was best encapsulated by Republican  Congressman Mo Brooks last week. Brooks commented that, “(The new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

This is merely social evolutionary and methodological individualism run amok. It’s as if politicians have completed forgotten – or never truly understood – the pain their neighbors are feeling. 

We have the capacity to make it better. Politicians may not have the will, though.This debate exposes a broader problem with our politics: namely, there’s a yawning gap between those who can and those who cannot afford to live well in America. Everyone’s looking for someone to blame.

It’s our political pre-existing condition. 

Our country’s current political narrative places the blame for its problems squarely on the shoulders of those who can’t afford to live in America. While GOP lawmakers have hung their hats on getting rid of Obamacare, no matter the cost, people – often through no fault of their own – struggle to make life work.

Their struggles rouse fears that our system is rigged in favor of those who aren’t struggling economically.

The AHCA bill has done nothing to dispel those fears. If we’re going to make any earnest attempt at re-establishing trust in our democratic society, we have to address the people’s fears or risk more civil unrest.

Brady Banks is the executive director of The Contributor. He can be reached at

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