“… And such small portions!”
So, I just got my CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield letter telling me, as required by the Affordable Care Act, that my 2017 benefits are changing. As a self-employed small businessperson (my business is small; I’m 6’0”), I pay for my own healthcare coverage and buy it though the Washington, DC, healthcare exchange. With the breathless coverage of Obamacare, how it’s an historic disaster, the socialist experiment that has failed and rates are rocketing, I braced for the worst. Wincing, I tore open the envelope and scanned for the bottom line.
My heart sank as my panic rose: My monthly premium will explode by $19.50 a month, from $498.77 to $518.27. Ouch! There goes dinner for two at Olive Garden! Three days of Starbucks holiday red-cup chestnut praline latte, caramel brûlée or peppermint mocha! Two dozen Dunkin Donuts! My Hulu and Netflix subscriptions! My official MLB Chicago Cubs World Series ball cap! (Whoops — that’s over $30.)
I wonder, how could this be happening? How could Obama hit me with an extra 65 cents a day for my healthcare security? I eat healthy. Exercise almost every day. Take a statin to keep my cholesterol under the wire. Avoid tobacco. Drink moderately. Try to sleep enough. Keep work stress under control, pretty much. Get a physical and see my skin doctor annually, and care just a little too much if my dental hygienist scolds or praises me for my flossing. My weight is relatively height-appropriate. As 60 approaches, I’m doing ok, all said, knock on wood.
Yet, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is hiking my Obamacare premiums. My BluePreferred PPO Standard Bronze of $4,500 will renew at $5,000, which I guess means my out-of-pocket costs will be higher too. Who knows how they’re limiting my choice of providers and care. I expect to be surprised and displeased.
But I would be Cletus Delroy Spuckler (the Simpsons slack-jawed yokel) to fall for the anti-Obamacare bloviations by the “indignation industry,” as wool-dyed conservative but currently GOP card-burning columnist George Will described the alt-right talk radio and cable personalities that carp and incite without having the courage, or at least the basic respect and decency, to put thoughtful alternatives on the table.
In fact, if Obamacare were abolished, millions of people — the unemployed, those without employer coverage, and the expanding ranks of self-employed — would lose healthcare coverage and could face medical bankruptcy and financial ruin, even if a tiny blemish turned out to be minor basel cell carcinoma (which happened to me).
Pre-Obamacare, in spite of years of employer healthcare coverage and few claims, CareFirst rejected me for coverage because I took a statin that would keep me from having health problems that would cost me and/or the system more. Post-Obamacare, the insurance industry can’t screw with me. In fact, the industry embraced Obamacare, making it happen, because while insurers could no longer reject people, they would get more customers, allowing them to increase volume to offset margin. Or something like that.
I understand if my Obamacare coverage is curtailed or constricted, and choice of doctors and services limited as the healthcare system struggles to cover an aging population and control rising systemic healthcare costs. That’s not caused by Obamacare; Obamacare tries to address and suppress these trends. And I understand that my Obamacare coverage and premiums copay the healthcare costs of people who disregard their health, just as Geico makes me copay the risks and costs of careless drivers.
But carping about Obamacare reminds me of the old Woody Allen standup joke: Two elderly diners are at a Catskill mountain resort. One of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other says, “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.”
Think Obamacare is terrible? Ask yourself why. Are the portions too small — do you want more? If so, ask yourself, who is going to pay the check?
In any event, if you want to inform your opinion about Obamacare, check out Steven Brill’s “America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System.” He’s a skeptical businessman who began the book as a critique. It’s a ripping yarn and overnight read. You’ll see how good people tried to deal with political reality, and balance conflicting interests, to make the healthcare system better. It might just disrupt your views about Obamacare. Unless you’re already set; if so, then, god bless.
But if you hate Obamacare, then I hope you do your homework and support a better plan. For your own sake and for the people you love.
Jeffrey Denny is a writer living in Washington DC