Roughly 55 million Americans could lose insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed, but that’s just a number. Those in jeopardy are making it personal.
In a burst of Twitter activism, scores of people have begun sharing details of their health complications online, as well as those of their loved ones, to draw attention to the issue.
The hashtag to watch — #the27Percent — reflects the 27 percent of Americans under 65 with preexisting conditions who risk losing health coverage. It was created by Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon, author, and executive director of Ariadne Labs, who on Wednesday posted his own testimonial to 178,000 Twitter followers.
— Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) December 14, 2016
His tweet came two days after another promoting a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis from which the 27 percent figure was taken.
“Once I saw the number of people responding [to the first tweet] with their own experiences, first of all it was very clear that they were seeing this in very personal terms,” Gawande told STAT. “And I’d been thinking of my son’s own condition the whole time as well.”
Gawande said he cleared the idea with his 21-year-old son, Walker, who has a congenital heart condition, before tweeting.
“Being human is about being mortal, living with the fragility of the fact of being a physical, breathing being with limited time,” he said. “That often feels like it can get so completely lost in the debate. Who are these people whose security and futures are at stake?”
The #27percent testimonials — many of them tweeted at Gawande — are sobering fare.
— Cate Bonacini (@cbonac) December 15, 2016
I'm one of #the27percent: Hodgkin's disease at age 23. Been in remission for almost 15 yrs but still uninsurable without ACA.
— Sarah Lee (@SarahatSLAR) December 15, 2016
— Juliana (@julieb42) December 15, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and congressional leaders have offered mixed signals about their plans to replace Obamacare. Trump has said he wants to keep the Obamacare provisions protecting people with preexisting conditions, but it’s unclear how he would do so.
As the Kaiser Family Foundation report pointed out, a sizable portion of this group is covered by employer insurance or a public option like Medicaid, but they could be denied coverage if Trump administration reverts to pre-ACA policies. Indeed, there could be many more than 55 million at risk, Kaiser said, since its surveys didn’t include questions about conditions like HIV or hepatitis C, which would have also barred respondents from coverage in pre-Obamacare insurance markets.
“I hadn’t intended to start anything with this,” Gawande said. “But I guess what I hope and expect is that we can continue to make clear the names and faces and voices that this policy effects.”