This campaign dispatch from the New York Times was a telling moment for Republican politicians’ attitude toward the Affordable Care Act. At an event in Hubbard, Iowa, a man named Mike Valde told the story of his brother, a barber:
He had never had a paid vacation day. He received health insurance at last because of the Affordable Care Act. He began to feel sick and went to a doctor.
“He had never been to a doctor for years,” Mr. Valde, 63, of Coralville, Iowa, said. “Multiple tumors behind his heart, his liver, his pancreas. And they said, ‘We’re sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do for you.’ ”
The room was silent.
“Mark never had health care until Obama care,” Mr. Valde continued. “What are you going to replace it with?”
Mr. Cruz expressed condolences and pivoted quickly to a well-worn answer assailing the health care law.
Mr. Cruz said “millions of Americans” had lost their jobs and their doctors as a result of the law, and that many had “seen their premiums skyrocket.”
He said he had often joked about a pledge by Mr. Obama that premiums would drop: “Anyone whose premiums have dropped $2,500, as President Obama promised, should vote for Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Cruz said. “I’ll take everybody else.”
Many in the room laughed.
Mr. Valde — who said in an interview later that he did in fact intend to caucus for Mrs. Clinton — pressed on.
“My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” he said.
Mr. Cruz said he was getting there, but had to lay out the problems with the law first. “There are millions of stories on the other side,” he said, describing voters who had liked their insurance plans and lost them because the plans did not provide the level of coverage the new law required.
He went on to describe elements of his plan, which includes an effort to allow people to purchase insurance across state lines.
Mr. Cruz turned back to Mr. Valde. “Your father-in-law, he couldn’t afford it,” he said.
“Brother-in-law,” Mr. Valde said.
“Your brother-in-law couldn’t afford it,” Mr. Cruz said.
“Right,” Mr. Valde said. “But he could afford it — he finally got it under Obama.”
“He would have gotten it earlier, if he could have afforded it earlier,” Mr. Cruz said. “But because of government regulations he couldn’t.”
Cruz, like many GOPs running for office, is always happy to trash Obamacare, a winning argument in red states and in Republican primaries. But when asked what he has to offer for people who are dependent on the health care law for their health insurance, what does Cruz have to offer? Absolutely nothing.
I wonder what Cruz would have to say to Anita Bacon of Madison County and George Coleman of North Little Rock and Crystal Bles of Morrilton. I wonder what John Boozman would say to them, or Tom Cotton. If Boozman and Cotton get their way, the private option will be gone, and with it health insurance for a quarter million Arkansans. If they get their way, tens of thousands more Arkansans dependent on protections against pre-existing conditions or subsidies on the Health Insurance Marketplace would likewise be left without affordable options.
When a reporter like me asks, they just blow me off. But the likes of Cruz, Boozman, and Cotton ought to answer to Anita and George and Crystal. They ought to answer to people like Melissa Farrell and Charles Lott and Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc and Rick Wells.
People like Wendy Phillips, from Searcy. People like Jennifer Trader, from Springdale. People like Sherri Thomas, from Walnut Ridge. People like Hope Smith, from Jonesboro. People like Irene Warren, from Madison.
And Tamara Williams and Fetara Amos and Herbert Denson and Paula Shatzer and Shelley Jackson and Mara D’Amico and Renita Askew and Lovie Wofford-Phillips and hundreds of thousands of others, hundreds of thousands of our fellow Arkansans, of our neighbors. Millions of other Americans. As the politicians say: my fellow Americans. Real people whose real lives will be impacted if Cruz and company succeed in taking their health insurance away. They deserve better answers than Cruz has to give.