AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Angus King said Tuesday that despite having told a reporter that opponents of the Affordable Care Act who urged college students not to buy health insurance were “guilty of murder,” he is ready to work with all political parties to improve the health care law.
“That’s a scandal — those people are guilty of murder in my opinion,” King told a reporter from Salon.com in an article published Monday. “Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don’t have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of. This absolutely drives me crazy.”
King told the Bangor Daily News during a telephone interview Tuesday that urging young people not to enroll in a health insurance program through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, which opened on Tuesday, would lead to early deaths. According to Salon, conservative groups have been encouraging college students to forgo health insurance as a way to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, which depends on millions of healthy young people enrolling.
“If you persuade people not to buy insurance, they’re going to have dramatic financial problems or even death,” said King, who cited studies that show between 20,000 and 45,000 people die annually because they don’t have health insurance. “To tell people to consciously and deliberately advise people not to get health insurance because of your opposition to the law, that’s grossly irresponsible.”
King, who supports the Affordable Care Act, joined numerous other politicians — mostly Democrats — on Tuesday in his objection to efforts by conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives to attach a partial defunding of the ACA to a continuing resolution that would have avoided the federal government closure that took effect Tuesday. King said Tuesday that he’s willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to improve the law, but only if those efforts unfold on their own, as opposed to being attached to a budget bill.
“What’s happening is a very dangerous precedent for how we make laws; it’s as if we’re rewriting the Constitution,” he said. “There isn’t a chapter in the Constitution which says if all else fails, just hold the government hostage and maybe you can get your way. … You don’t negotiate with a hostage taker because what you would do is really empower them to do it again. They’ll say ‘that solves this problem’ and six weeks later, what’s their next demand?”
King said his “murder” quote to Salon, which has been reported by blogs and media outlets across the country, has no bearing on his willingness to negotiate changes to the ACA and was borne from a personal belief that health insurance is a necessity for everyone, no matter how young or healthy they are.
When King was 29, doctors discovered that he had cancer during a routine checkup that he said he wouldn’t have scheduled if it weren’t free through his insurance.
“I think the reason I feel so strongly about this is that if someone had given me that advice [to not purchase health insurance] when I was 25, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I’d be dead. For someone to tell young people not to buy insurance, for me personally there’s nothing worse you can do.”