Luis Lang, who is currently crowdfunding for medical expenses that he can’t afford because he didn’t sign up for insurance under Obamacare, has become a viral sensation. However, the 49-year-old South Carolina resident says he doesn’t want to be the poster child for the Republican Party’s opposition to health care reform anymore.
At the end of last week, the Charlotte Observer reported that Lang, a lifelong Republican who’s previously prided himself on covering his own medical bills, can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars to treat an issue stemming from his chronic diabetes. Lang is suffering form bleeding in his eyes and a partially detached retina, which will cause him to go blind if left untreated. So he set up a GoFundMe page to solicit $30,000 in donations to cover a costly surgery that will save his vision.
Since then, the story has been picked up in left-leaning outlets across the country and covered in nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Obamacare supporters flocked to Lang’s GoFundMe page to urge him to change his mind about the health law.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Lang joked that he might be the most hated Republican in the country right now. But he also said that, thanks in part to a flood of media attention that led him to learn more about health care policy, he doesn’t identify with the GOP anymore.
“Now that I’m looking at what each party represents, my wife and I are both saying — hey, we’re not Republicans!” Lang said. He added that, though he’s not a political person by nature and has never voted solely along party lines, he wants to rip up his voter registration card on national television so Americans will have proof that he’s making the switch.
Although the Charlotte Observer article positioned Lang against the ACA, he insists he has never been completely opposed to the law. He does, however, have some issues with the way it’s been implemented.
Like many Americans, Lang struggled to navigate the website last year and was frustrated by long wait times and technological glitches. He told ThinkProgress he thinks the law is too confusing as it’s currently written — and pointed out that it’s too difficult for him to predict his annual income as a self-employed contractor, which is what prevented him from signing up for a plan during previous enrollment periods. He was too nervous about underestimating his income during the enrollment process and being required to pay back his insurance subsidy during tax season.
But Lang’s main complaint is the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion should be optional, which has given Republican lawmakers the opportunity to refuse to implement the policy on the state level. That’s led to a coverage gap preventing millions of Americans from accessing affordable insurance whatsoever. Because Lang’s income has recently dried up, now that his deteriorating vision prevents him from working, he now falls into that gap.
“I put the blame on everyone — Republican and Democrat. But I do mainly blame Republicans for their pigheadedness,” Lang said. “They’re blocking policies that could help everyone. I’m in the situation I’m in because they chose not to expand Medicaid for political reasons. And I know I’m not the only one.”
Lang said he’s read almost every comment on his GoFundMe page. He acknowledged that a lot of people have criticized him for waiting until he got sick to think about purchasing insurance, which is not how the health care system is intended to function. But he insists that he and his wife have been discussing getting coverage now that they’re getting older, and notes that he tried his best to navigate the law last year.
“I know we didn’t do it the right way,” Lang told ThinkProgress, explaining that he’s hoping to figure out the situation with his fluctuating income so he can be the first in line to sign up for a plan during the next open enrollment period.
He said he’s always tried to take responsibility for his own bills, but he also believes that the United States should move toward a universal health care system that makes coverage available to everyone regardless of their income level. He said he “one hundred percent agrees” with the people who commented on his crowdfunding page to argue that health care is a human right.
“In fact, I have some eyesight jokes for you,” he added. “This whole thing has helped me see more clearly. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20.”