I apparently wrote this and posted it on facebook “on this day” in 2010, before I started this blog. I’ll post it here as these points remain important. More important, in some ways, given the adjustments companies have made since The Affordable Care Act was implemented:
As a proponent of health care reform I don’t feel an urge to celebrate its passing. When Massachusetts elected Brown, someone tried to celebrate with me and was genuinely surprised I wasn’t as ecstatic as he was. It took about everything I had to not feel hatred for the guy as an impromptu debate got started in our employee break room, and I listened to him repeat by rote the pundit propaganda from conservative radio that I used to love to hate until I realized what it was doing to my blood pressure. It’s sad how divided the country became over this issue, and I hope President Obama addresses the nation soon and remains vigorous about explaining the details of the new law to the half of us*** who were against it, most of whom, I think, are understandably worried for the sake of their families that a bad situation is going to get worse. I think this will be good for the country, and I want to counter two points I kept hearing on the radio Sunday night.
The idea that mandating people to have insurance violates their freedom. “If you want to spend your money on cell phones and Xboxes instead of health insurance, you will no longer have that freedom under this law.” (from Sunday night talk show conservative pundit) The idea is that people in their twenties and thirties are likely to not need health care and are paying exorbitant sums to have it. They should have the freedom to choose to pay their medical costs out of pocket. Take a thousand people in this age group without insurance. If one of them falls off a roof and needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency care (happened to my dad and I saw the bill), in this country he or she would get that care. Paid out of pocket? That is funny money. The average working person would never be able to pay that bill in their lifetime and it would get covered, in some way, by the rest of the country. Now, does that mean this one unlucky person milked the system and the other 999 exercised their reasonable freedom to choose not to have health insurance? No, they all milked the system. Our freedoms are restricted anytime they take away from the freedoms of others. You can’t punch people you’re mad at. You can’t yell “Fire!” in a theatre. And unless you’re going to have it tattooed to your face that you want to be left for dead if anything happens to you, you can’t go without health insurance in a country where you will receive medical care if you need it.
The second point is the pre-existing conditions issue which has, I think, been largely misrepresented. “People are now going to be able to wait until they’re sick to buy insurance.” (from different talk show) I agree they have to prevent this, which the mandate to have insurance will need to do, because insurance is supposed to be a huge pool of people paying in a little so a relatively few people can draw out a lot. But insurance companies are the ones who started us down this road by attempting to weed out the few who are going to draw out a lot and only collect from the many. Ten years ago, I lost my insurance through work and looked into buying insurance privately. There is a list of thirty or so conditions on page one. These were general things like ever had heart surgery, ever had cancer, HIV-positive, I think diabetes was on there, virtually anything that would predict you would need care, in other words, be expensive. If you had one of these, they would still insure you, they had to by law, but they would only take you during one period of the year and they put you in a “high risk group.” At the time I looked into it, private insurance in this high risk group would have cost eighteen hundred dollars a month ($1800/month). Talk about funny money. They are purposely pricing you out. They don’t want you. I’ve spent all my adult life on this list. When I was seventeen years old, my doctor told me, “Get a job in a big company, and don’t lose it.” And I’m extremely lucky. I have a mostly reliable machine that saves my life. If it breaks, it gets fixed and I’m back to work. A lot of people on this list, because of their illnesses, can’t work the hours companies require to stay on their insurance plans. Thanks to this law those people will no longer be discriminated against by insurance companies attempting to maximize their profits.
***I don’t really trust any of these opinion polls. I tend to think more than half were for this plan. I think these numbers were confused by polls that asked questions different ways to get certain answers. Like do you want to add a trillion dollars of debt to the country? And people said no. Do you want affordable health care for everyone? And people said yes. Neither means anything.