Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Defunding Obamacare

I thought for a few seconds about using "Obamacare" in the title for this post as I absolutely despise its use.  At first only those opposed to the Affordable Heath Care Act (ACA) used this derogatory term, but as time passed even many advocates began to use it, mostly because the term Obamacare was instantly recognizable, but also, sadly, because referring to the law that aims to provide access to health care insurance by its true name does not create the visceral reaction that so many pundits, politicians and news journalists are seeking.

So, that being said, I decided to join the crowd with my title in hopes that I may reach an audience that is pre-disposed to fighting the implementation of ACA.

Like all laws, ACA is not perfect.  First and foremost, it requires the citizens of America to seek health care insurance through this program when they have no other source.  Not because it might be cheaper, not because it might be partially subsidized, but because they have no other options.  It also requires businesses with more than fifty employees, to accept their duty to offer basic health care insurance to those people who make their business successful, as opposed to reducing their full time work force to avoid the requirement.  In each case, it requires Americans, as individuals and as corporations, to put the needs of the country ahead of selfishness and greed.  And finally, it requires the health industry, insurance and providers alike,  to place the health of Americans, especially the sickest among us, on par with their profit margins and salaries. 

In my opinion, if the American people continue to seek only what is in it for them, and if American corporations continue to measure each and every decision by the yardstick of short term profit, then the program will not work.

Speaking of opinions, here is a quick caveat.  From the President himself, down through every Senator and Congressmen for and against ACA, to anyone willing to air his/her viewpoint concerning the consequences of implementing ACA, it is ALL conjecture.  No one really knows if it will work, no one really knows it if will save money or be a boondoggle, no one really knows if lives will be saved because more people have access to health insurance, no one really knows if our continued experiment with using a "market" approach to health care insurance will ever work.  No one really knows.  Opinions are just glorified guesses, so anyone who presents his/her opinion as fact might best be ignored. 

But there is one thing I believe I do know.  If we work together, the health care insurance, pharmaceutical, medical device industries, doctors, hospitals and other care givers, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and most importantly each and every American, if we all work together towards a common goal of developing a program so that no American is denied health care insurance, no American can go bankrupt due to their medical bills, no American must make a choice between medicine and food, then I believe we can solve this problem.  If we want to continue to believe we are the greatest nation on Earth, then we must solve this problem or no longer make that claim.

So, then, the big question is, why is the GOP so intent on defunding ACA, so much so that they are willing to shut down the government?  Obviously, they oppose it.  They oppose Obamacare.  But which portions of ACA do they actually oppose?   For those reading this blog, which of these do you oppose?

No yearly health insurance benefit caps
No lifetime health insurance benefit caps
No denial of insurance coverage simply due to an error on an application
No denial of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions
No denial of insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions
An option for young adults to stay on their parents policy up to age 26
Reduction of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare
Subsidies for people earning incomes which make paying premiums cost prohibitive.
The individual mandate requiring all Americans to retain health care insurance.

If you are like most people I have spoken with, you are opposed to one or less of the above items, and most likely the mandate.

Strangely, most of the people I have spoken with have health care insurance yet resent being told (by the government) that they must purchase it.  And, if we had laws that said that those without health care insurance should not be given health care services that they can't afford, I guess I could understand people who decided to throw the dice and take their chances.  But we have more humane laws that require people to receive health care services despite their ability to pay, and we have care givers that concern themselves more with healing the sick, first, worry about the money, second. 

So, answer me this.  Would you agree to waive your rights to health care services that you can't afford so that you do not pass along your debt to your fellow taxpayers, or do you think it best to pay an insurance premium so that if you (or a family member) does become extremely sick, you will be covered for the services required to save your life? 

I have a life insurance policy on myself so that should I die, my wife and children will have the option to stay in our home, continue their education, live in the community where we have lived for 20+ years, etc.  Hopefully, I will not die prematurely which means I will have wasted my money on that life insurance policy, and I will be darn happy about it!

Similarly, for those who live a lifetime of good health never having to face the consequences of a heart attack, a cancer diagnosis, or a debilitating accident, for those who are fortunate enough to never needing costly health care services, I say, what a shame!  All that money wasted!  Perhaps in your next life you will be less fortunate and have some type of chronic disease that justifies your health insurance premium.  But in the meantime, perhaps you should visit a local cancer ward to bolster your perspective on who is suffering.

Finally, to my young readers who still believe you are immortal.  Enjoy your health!!!  Stay up all night, burn the candle at both ends, sky dive, travel, hitchhike across America, engage in recreational drugs and one night stands.  Do it all, enjoy your life knowing that eventually, inevitably, you will grow old.  So yes, you might have a few less bucks to spend today, but if something were to happen in your happy-go-lucky time of life, you won't be saddled with immense medical debt, or, should you opt to the waiver I mention above, find yourself on the short end of the medical services stick.  And don't forget that you are paying those premiums now, so that us old people, your parents and grandparents, uncle and aunts, older cousins, brothers and sisters, will have the means to obtain health care insurance despite being old, or sick, or both.  Hopefully, then, when your time comes for help from the generations to follow yours, they will also be as generous. 

Which brings us back to ACA.  What provisions need to be changed?  Of course, it is hard to know since the main tenets of the law are just starting to become effective.  But, as the exchanges begin to develop, as people who have spent years trying to obtain health care insurance navigate their options under ACA, as the wheels begin to turn on this massive program, we should be able to identify problems and tweak the law, just as we have tweaked virtually every law ever written, including the Constitution for those of you keeping score.  But, again, we need to do it together, with the best interests in mind of the American people in the forefront of the discussion.  Not through the lens of which political party can make the most points or which special interest group can get the most exemptions. 

Finally, one last question.  If you were to lose your job tomorrow, do you know what your COBRA payment would be?  Could you afford it?  Up until now, you most likely would have had to make the tough choice of dropping health care coverage in this scenario, either because you weren't able to obtain coverage on your own or because you could not afford the premiums.  You were isolated and alone, and if you will forgive my obvious distaste for the health care insurance industry, you were at their mercy which is precisely where they want us all to be.  Now, through ACA you will have other choices.  That simple fact alone makes this a no brainer for me that we should stop trying to defund ACA, and get on the side of the American people. 

1 comment:

  1. Okay Joe I’ll bite. The current impasse is the result of what you get when one party crams its agenda down the throats of a divided American populace with zero support from the minority party. The ACA or Obamacare is a bad law being implemented poorly. The President says the ACA is the law of the land yet he waives portions of it at his own discretion. Has the United States become some sort of dictatorship where the President by decree gets to decide what laws to enforce and which are to be ignored? What kind of law is it that has to be passed so that we can find out what’s in it? I never heard a more ludicrous statement then that made by the former Speaker of the House. Poll after poll shows that the American people do not like the ACA. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives largely in reaction to passage of the ACA. For that reason I would expect the House to fight the ACA with everything in its arsenal. I have mixed feelings about the shutdown tactics. I am currently furloughed as a result. However, there is a principal at stake that I feel very strongly about. There is something decidedly un-American about the federal government compelling citizens to buy a product. The Supreme Court upheld the law by the narrowest of margins after determining the ACA is something it was specifically advertised not to be, a tax. Sure, something has to be done to get people to own up to their responsibilities. I’m not sure what the answer is but forcing people to buy health insurance by governmental decree or pay a fine is a Rubicon we should never have crossed. I believe the law should be repealed and the President should demonstrate some leadership and hammer out a bipartisan approach to health care reform. I didn't always agree with big government legislation by George Bush but at least his efforts for such things as NCLB and the prescription drug program had some support from the Democrats.