The Affordable Care Act: It's Not Just About You

I was accidentally watching Fox News on Saturday (it was on a TV in a waiting room and the sound was up pretty high and the TV was mounted way up on the wall and the remote was controlled by someone I couldn’t see… I couldn’t help it!)  The woman on the “news” show said “We’ve tried Obamacare and it didn’t work.  Time to pull the plug.”

Mmmmmmm…..okay.  Here’s the thing.  We haven’t tried it.  Much of it has yet to be implemented.  The Marketplace opens in a couple hours and it is supposed to allow people to choose insurance offers from numerous companies competing for their business.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  The intentions are good.  Maybe we could wait and see.

Our healthcare system has been a mess for a really long time.  Insurance is a horrible mess.  No one else has done anything about it.  We elected a dude who wanted to fix it.  He and a bunch of really smart people came up with a plan and then a whole lotta other people insisted upon changes and amendments and conditions and the law that was passed was not the law the president wanted – but it was better than nothing.  It was a step in the right direction.  Sometimes all you can do is the best you can do.

And although not everything has been implemented, I very distinctly noticed the first time I wasn’t charged a single penny for a well-child visit.  I notice every single time.  It’s a great thing.  And those kids who sat behind me in the college cafeteria and spouted total untruths about the Affordable Care Act?  They are covered by their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26 if they need it.  And my instructor now gets her diabetes meds covered – for the first time in many years.  I like that.

Are there drawbacks?  Sure.  Aren’t there drawbacks any time you try to change a system that is already in place?  When I laid down the “No TV on school mornings” rule, there was some serious fallout.  For a time.  And then we started getting to school on time.  And people were more cheerful.  And people started reading books or playing with action figures if they got ready early.  It was the right thing.  And, no, I’m not being naïve.  I recognize that The Affordable Care Act is larger than my tv rule (a little bit.)  It was an analogy.  Don’t be obtuse.

I had an argument with a friend who said his insurance premiums went up because of The Affordable Care Act and he was pissed.  That's unfortunate.  I don’t doubt it’s true.  Change makes people panic.  The Affordable Care Act is supposed to save everyone a lot of money – it's supposed to eventually reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars - but it will take time.  Right now, we spend more on healthcare than any other country.  People who aren’t insured use emergency rooms as their health clinics because they know they can’t be turned away.  But they can’t pay.  And the hospital is a business.  So the hospital absorbs those costs and passes them on to you and your insurance company.  Everyone would save money if everyone else was insured.  Everyone would be healthier if everyone else was getting proper medical care.  We are a society.  We should act like one.

But the immediate result – if you don’t wait for things to level out again – is that insurance companies panic because they are no longer allowed to gouge people in the same shady ways they were doing before.  And they have to accept everyone even if they have a pre-existing condition and they are scared of what that will cost.  But the gouging was BAD and the turning down of people and claims were BAD.  And trying to fix it is NOT bad.  Why are we so confused about that?

You know, if you wanna save money on gas, you gotta invest in a more energy efficient car.  And those are expensive.  So it takes time and patience to recoup your losses.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  Two things the Affordable Care Act has never been afforded.

And no plan is going to be perfect.  Very few things in the world are perfect, ya'll.  But our healthcare system heretofore has been disasterous.  It is, by far, the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country.  Not just for people who are without health insurance but for people WITH health insurance as well.

Pip’s transplant cost ¾ of a million dollars in 2008 and his follow-up care ain’t cheap either.  We have a very expensive PPO covering Pip and we still pay a whole lot of money every year.  We were lucky it didn’t put us under.  It could have.

But here’s the most important thing you need to know about Pip’s transplant:  if he hadn’t been insured, he would not have been eligible to get one.  You are given basic medical care if you are uninsured – that is true.  And when you can’t pay, those of us who are insured end up paying.  That’s one part of our long-broken system.  Another part is this:  there are procedures that you can’t get (and any kind of transplant would be considered such a procedure) unless you  A) are insured or B) can prove you have the liquid assets to cover the procedure.  Even if you have a living donor lined up, you cannot get a transplant without insurance.  In a country that has the capability to perform miracles, you would be denied that miracle without insurance.

I watched a baby fail while waiting for a liver.  I had hope that one would get to him in time.  Imagine having no such hope.  His liver stopped functioning, the liquid part of his blood spilled out into his body, his kidneys stopped working, his lungs filled with fluid, he felt like he was drowning, he no longer had the strength to cry, when he opened his eyes he couldn’t focus them.  Nobody should die like that when there are doctors nearby who can save him.  Not in this country.  We can do better than that.

I’m sorry you might have to pay more for your insurance for a while.  There's a cap, you know.  And incentives. If they don't apply to you, it's possible you make too much money to be complaining.  Still, I’m sorry if there are inconveniences with a huge new overhaul of the entire health system of an enormous first-world country.  My son’s hospital got a new e-mail system and it took them forever to fix the glitches so that the emails actually went to the right people on the actual day they were sent.  Did we really think the Affordable Care Act would be glitch-free?  And did we think it would be perfect and it would improve everyone’s health insurance costs and everyone’s health insurance accessibility equally and immediately...before it was fully implemented?  Did we?  Maybe we did.  In this throw-away society where we ditch marriages when they become imperfect or houses or cars or pets…  Maybe we did expect instantaneous perfection - before all the phases of the law were even implemented.  Maybe we did.  How silly.

For me, the bottom line is this:  Are we people who hold out our hands to help those of us who need a lift up or are we people who step on their heads?

If I hear one more person say “I was happy with my insurance the way it was” I am going to lose my mind.  I can only imagine them saying it while stepping on the heads of the people who have none.


And a government shutdown is bush league.

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