Dean Angstadt hated the Affordable Care Act with intense partisan fervor until it saved his life.
"[T]his year … a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt," writes Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robert Calandra. "Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion's share of the cost of the life-saving surgery—or die. He chose the former."
Now he's proselytizing for Obamacare.
"A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA," the 57-year-old Angstadt said. "I was, before [my friend] Bob [Leinhauser] went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs."
When you read the article, as you should, keep in mind the following context.
After having spent months and months discouraging enrollment—occasionally by peddling the outright lie that under Obamacare people can simply wait until they're sick to buy insurance—conservatives now want you to be outraged about the fact that the law sets open-enrollment periods outside of which people can't buy insurance. Even if, like Angstadt, you urgently need valve-replacement surgery.
As political strategies go, persuading people to skip something, then feigning anger on their behalf when they can't access it, is breathtaking in its cynicism. But this was worse than cynical politics. It was playing with people's lives in an insanely reckless way.
Once the alternative to enrolling became clear to Angstadt, his choice was obvious. And everything seems to have worked out alright. But that's only because he happened to get extremely sick during an open-enrollment period.
There's an alternate ending to this story, in which Angstadt doesn't get desperate for care until April or May and—having acted upon the misinformation he's now combating—is uninsured, locked out, can't pay for his surgery, and dies. Or maybe he lucks out, goes bankrupt, and spends his golden years in poverty.
A fate like that awaits those less fortunate or more stubborn than Angstadt, if it hasn't befallen them already, and the conservatives who discouraged them from enrolling before March 31 are refusing to reckon with their culpability.
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic.