Friday, October 4, 2013

My take on "Obamacare"...

This has been an interesting week, what with the government shutdown and people jumping up and down screaming about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare".  Frankly, I haven't been paying that much attention to a lot of the bickering going on.  I have health insurance through Tricare Prime, which means that if I need medical care, I can just go to a military treatment facility and get it for free.  Here in San Antonio, we are in the medulla oblongata of military healthcare.  There's a HUGE military hospital here.  Most Army folks in this city are medical professionals.

When Bill retires, we will still have Tricare.  That doesn't thrill me, really, but I grew up with military healthcare and, fortunately, I've always been very healthy.  But there were a few years that I did have a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy that I purchased as an individual.  The first year, I paid about $75 a month for it, which seemed expensive at the time.  Six years later, my premium had jumped to well over $200 a month.  I shudder to think how much it would cost today.  I purchased that policy after I got cellulitis on my face that sent me to the emergency room.  I had to pay full price for everything and it wiped out my savings. Thank God they didn't want to admit me to the hospital.  I might still be paying the bills for something that happened in January 1999.

Personally, I think it's absolutely SHAMEFUL that in this country, which is among the richest in the world, we have so many people who can't afford to be sick, even if they do have insurance.  For many years, millions of people have gone without health insurance and prayed that nothing happened to them.  When something invariably does happen, what do these folks do?  A lot of them head for the emergency room, where legally, they must be seen and stabilized.

But the emergency room is kind of the 7-11 of healthcare.  It's staffed 24/7 and must be equipped with expensive machines designed to help people in a medical crisis.  Are ERs lifesavers for those who need them?  Yes!  But they also serve as a place for the uninsured to go.  And when these folks can't pay their medical bills, those costs get passed on to those of us who do have insurance or can pay out of pocket for healthcare.

I totally get that people who have insurance and work to pay for what they have resent that everyone will have access to insurance, regardless of their health status or lifestyle.  And yes, insuring everyone, regardless of their health will cost money.  However, it costs money NOT to insure them, too.  Because if these people don't have access to some form of medical care, they are more likely to wait until there's a catastrophe before they seek treatment and that will mean their problem will be more expensive to treat.  And you're still going to be footing the bills for them.

Something has to be done about the state of healthcare in this country.  People shouldn't have to worry about going bankrupt when they come down with an illness or get hurt.  Health insurance should be available to people who need healthcare, not just the healthiest folks out there.  And while you may think these people are freeloading, guess what-- they were freeloading before all of this Obamacare stuff, too, and their bad debts were being passed on to you through higher charges at the hospital and doctor's office and increased health insurance premiums.

Here's another thing I wish would change.  I wish employers could get out of the business of providing health insurance to their employees.  That way, healthcare could be truly private.  People seeking healthcare would not have to worry about whether or not their employer approves of things like birth control.  Moreover, health insurance could be more portable because it would not be tied to a person's job.

Aside from the financial aspect of the Affordable Care Act, there's also the moral aspect.  If you threaten to kill yourself in front of someone in authority, like a police officer or a doctor, chances are you WILL have to spend about three days in a hospital, whether you want to be there or not and whether or not you can afford to pay your bill.  However, if you have a debilitating disease that you can't afford to treat, you may be shit out of luck if you can't access a program that will help you pay your bills.  And hey, if you have access to more affordable healthcare because you are insured, maybe that will mean fewer bankruptcies caused by excessive medical bills.  Fewer bankruptcies means fewer people with trashed credit and lessened purchasing power.      

I guess what really disgusts me is the very selfish and judgmental attitudes I have seen from people who are against doing something about healthcare.  It seems like a lot of these folks make presumptions about the circumstances surrounding poor people.  They resent having to help people who have personal habits that they disagree with-- the smokers, the drunks, the fatties, what have you...  But hell, you can live your life doing nothing "wrong" and still get sick or have an accident.  And if it's you or one of your loved ones who gets sick, don't you want them to have access to affordable healthcare?  Do you really think they should spend the rest of their lives digging themselves out of medical debt?  People who are weighed down by massive debt have a hard time contributing to the economy, which means that they will stay poor longer and may need the public's help for a longer time.  Besides, everybody has a struggle.  Nobody lives a perfectly healthy life-- whatever that is.  Most people would do well to focus on bettering themselves rather than pointing their fingers at other people and their "bad habits" that they don't want to have to pay for.

Anyway, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.  Nothing will change if nothing ever changes.  The system we've had hasn't been working.  It's time to do something to change the system and right now, that means making people sign up for health insurance or pay a fine.  I realize that Americans don't like having their rights trampled on in such a way, but people need access to healthcare and they need it to be financially within their reach so they can pay their own bills and not pass them on to those who are insured or those who aren't insured, but pay the "list price" for healthcare.

I have had the good fortune to be able to travel to over three dozen countries, many of which offer free or affordable care to their citizens.  Yes, they pay higher taxes in exchange for that healthcare, but they also don't have to worry as much about the financial end of healthcare.  They can focus on getting well, instead.

In light of all of this, I guess I have to say that I'm in favor of the Affordable Care Act, even though there are going to be issues with it as it unrolls.  Something does need to be done about the cost of healthcare in this country.  No one in the past has been able to tackle the problem of healthcare because we were too focused on things like war.  If Obama can pull this off and it works, then more power to him.  Maybe he will have actually earned that Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded.

11 comments:

  1. I agree. I believe healthcare is a human right. The people who complain about freeloaders are typically those who have never gone without health insurance, who have never had to suffer through a period of unemployment that wiped out their savings. They've never had to take low-paying jobs (that don't provide healthcare) just to survive and then had to worry that the bad flu they got was actually pneumonia because they just can't afford to go to the hospital. One of the biggest complainers about Obamacare in my life is someone who is retired military. Worked for the government since age 23, has had stellar healthcare the entire time and still does in his current retirement years. All provided by the US government, but by God Obamacare is just evil. Yeah, whatever. I always want to say to him "Feel free to unload your government funded Tricare AND Medicare and buy on the private market like I have to. Oh, and by the way, that quadruple bypass you had? Yeah, that's a pre-existing condition, so you'll be paying a shitload more because of it. Your entire adult life has been spent with healthcare provided by the government so quit your bitching."

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    1. Yeah, I know... I have had Tricare or government healthcare for most of my life, with the exception of the five years between the end of my Peace Corps assignment and my marriage to Bill. I actually much preferred having private insurance because I prefer PPOs and civilian doctors, but you can't beat the price or the benefits of military healthcare. I think a lot of military folks, most of whom tend to be politically conservative, don't realize that the military healthcare system is actually pretty socialist.

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    2. Yeah, exactly. The person in my life (let's call him Bob) who is retired military and complains constantly about too much government has received massive benefits from working for...the government. I have nothing against the military, my father and brother were both lifers in the military and I certainly benefited from healthcare as a military dependent, but you know what? Call it what it is - a government job with socialism all over it and don't bitch and complain about government interference when you've made your living with the government paying you for a lot of things private sector people will never get.

      I didn't see Bob refusing those housing allotments that he didn't actually need, but still accepted. Didn't see him refuse to let the government pay for the six-figure open heart surgery he needed. It's just a question of credibility. Hate government interference, but you're letting the government totally care for all your health needs? OK then...

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    3. I have a whole slew of relatives like "Bob"... I know of what you write... I just wish that if the people against the new healthcare regime hated it so much, they'd come up with something better. Seriously... it's at the point at which people in the hospital have to pay $10 for a couple of aspirin when they could go to a drug store and buy a big bottle for a couple of bucks. That's caused, in part, because there are many uninsured people using medical services that don't pay their bills. That stuff has to get paid for somehow, so they stick it to those who can pay. Add in the fact that many Americans expect healthcare to be all things to all people and you end up with a huge fiscal nightmare.

      This country has so much... While I am all for people pulling their own weight and working for their own survival, I also think there's no excuse for Americans going hungry or going bankrupt because they need emergency healthcare. This new law is going to cause issues, some of which are yet to be seen, but something seriously has to be done.

      And yeah, if you're military, you have no business bitching about government help. Granted, you sacrifice a lot for those perks, but no one in the private sector gets those benefits.

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  2. As reasonable a take on this as I've read anywhere, Knotty. :o) One of my local friends is one of those judgmental folks that like to brand anyone without a health insurance a 'freeloader'. That sure rubbed me the wrong way since I used to have Blue Cross private insurance. Paid my premium every month for 5 yrs without needing any doctor visit before I came down with lupus myocarditis. They couldn't just kick me off my plan for getting really expensively sick, so they just kept raising the premium until I could no longer afford to pay. And when that policy lapsed, of course, the pre-existing condition prevents me from getting another insurance... anywhere. So now, according to that one (ex-) friend of mine, I am a freeloader. :oP The gal was just too healthy to acknowledge that the system as is is unfairly rigged by the insurance companies!

    ACA is not perfect, but it sure looks a lot better than the status quo to me, too. :o)

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    1. I've been hearing similar sentiments from people like you, Smorgy... Those who have never been denied health insurance outright or been unable to afford it don't see how important this is... And when they deny insurance to people who need it, they're really only screwing themselves.

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  3. My dad says he doesn't see how it can possibly make things any worse than they already are. And, as you all have said, the only onesopposing it are people who have hadcoverage throughout their lifetimes and have never had to worry about going bankrupt over a kid's broken leg or appendicitis.

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    1. Well, I guess I hear people who are upset because they happen to live in a state where there's not as much choice in insurance providers and costs are not as favorable. But again, it'll take some time before things settle down.

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  4. I guess I'll be the lone wolf and say I openly oppose this health care. Something needs to be done, but I don't believe this is it. I have many reasons for my objection, but I'll just bring up one for this msg. From what I understand our congress/senate are exempt. What?! It appears in dealing with most legislative issues, they vote one way, and then make themselves exempt. It feels so elitist. I don't understand if the new health care is so helpful for everyone, why are they not included? It just doesn't make sense to me.(all parties included.) Thanks for hearing me out.

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  5. P.S. And the more I read about how congress is handling health care for themselves, the more confused I am........

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    1. Hi JP October,

      You are certainly not the lone wolf, unless you're just referring to the people who have commented on my blog post. Lots of people have issues with Obamacare. For the record, I don't think people in Congress should be exempt from the law. However, it was my understanding that if you have health insurance, you don't have to get it... and I would expect most politicians would already have health insurance. If you have insurance and it meets the minimum coverage requirements, you don't have to get new insurance. It's only the people who aren't covered and can afford to buy coverage that have to shop on the exchanges. At least that was my understanding. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

      This law is definitely not perfect. I understand why a lot of people don't like it. There will be a lot of glitches as it's rolled out. However, I firmly believe that something must be done about health care costs. This is at least a step in a direction, which is better than standing still.

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