The at-risk patients GOP repeal efforts would leave behind

THE AT-RISK PATIENTS GOP REPEAL EFFORTS WOULD LEAVE BEHIND…. When we think about those who’ll suffer if the Affordable Care Act is eliminated — either by Republican lawmakers or Republican Supreme Court justices — we tend to focus on familiar groups of people.

Seniors would have to pay more for prescription medication; children with pre-existing conditions would go back to facing discrimination; young adults would no longer be covered by their family plans; small businesses would see their taxes go up; etc.

But Brian Beutler today shines a light on a different group of people who Republicans hope to leave high and dry: patients who’ve begun critical long-term treatments, working under the assumption that the law will be the law.

If the health care reform law were to disappear tomorrow, Dallas Wiens would be in trouble.

Earlier this week, in a 15-hour procedure, Boston surgeons grafted a donor’s face onto Wiens’ skull. Weins is a 25-year-old boom lift operator from Texas who came into contact with a live electrical wire, costing him his lips, nose, and eyes and leaving him severely disfigured.

The Department of Defense covered the cost of the surgery through a grant to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where the surgery was performed — an investment the military hopes will pay off in new surgical techniques that will benefit wounded soldiers. But all the Pentagon’s largesse would have been for naught without the new health care law.

At 25, Wiens was too old to be a beneficiary on his parent’s health insurance policy, until the health care reform law raised the maximum age to 26. Without that coverage, Weins wouldn’t have been able to afford the expensive immunosuppressant drugs that he must take for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting his new face. Patients have to demonstrate that they will be able to afford the anti-rejection drugs to qualify for a transplant.

If the health care reform law were to be wiped off the books before Wiens turns 26, he’d have to figure out, quickly, how to get those drugs by other means.

In Wiens’ particular case, he might be able to transfer to Medicare, but there’s a much larger group of transplant patients who would find themselves in a “perilous situation” if Republicans successful. These are folks who’ve already committed to transplant surgery, basing their decision on the American health care system as it currently exists — post-ACA reforms.

If those reforms and associated benefits were suddenly and completely eliminated by the GOP crusade, these patients would have their new organ, but no way to pay for the medication they need.

And somehow, it seems unlikely these patients will be comforted by the Republican message: “We’re going to fight like hell to take away your benefits, but don’t worry, you’ll love our ideas about medical malpractice reform.”

Brian’s piece is a solid contribution to an under-covered aspect of the larger policy debate. Take a look.