Let them bite bullets
Caught between BernieCare and TrumpDontCare
The critically acclaimed film “The Sisters Brothers,” a Western interpreted by a French director, Jacques Audiard, is strange and haunting. It’s too funny to be a drama and too dramatic to be a comedy.
No, not like “The Hangover” I, II and III.
In one gruesome Sisters Brothers scene, a doctor — literally a “sawbones” — hacks off the acid-burned arm of Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) to save his life.
The film was set in 1851. Since then, medical care in America has come a long way.
Today, skilled Mayo Clinic neurosurgeons can perform painless remote robotic outpatient brain surgery, via iPhone FaceTime, in 20 minutes at your nearest CVS MinuteClinic. On the way out of CVS, you can pick up Band-Aids and Neosporin for your pinprick wound and a party bag of peanut M&Ms because you deserve a treat and your brain needs the protein to heal.
Also unlike the Sisters Brothers, most Americans today have health insurance.
About half are covered by employer health plans, which are taxpayer-subsidized. Some 36 percent have government health plans — Medicare, Medicaid (including a majority of poor whites in many government-hating, Trump-loving states) and VA.
But millions of Americans like me — too young for Medicare, too fortunate for Medicaid, or self-employed entrepreneur small businessperson contractor consultant “backbones of the economy” — rely on the Affordable Care Act, aka ACA, aka Obamacare.
Do I love Obamacare?
Love is a feeling I reserve for family, friends, tennis and peanut M&Ms.
And like many Americans, I agree that ACA, after nearly a decade, could use a tweaking to mend it not end it (aka BidenCare).
But I really appreciated that Obamacare guaranteed I had reasonably affordable coverage after my pre-ACA Blue Cross rejected me. This was in spite of my good health, regular physicals, mostly Mediterranean diet, 4–5 times’ weekly tennis, and physical training to avoid shoulder surgery and try to stay in shape.
But I had — gasp! — a preexisting condition. Cancer? Heart disease? Diabetes? Existential dread relieved by chain smoking? Fortunately not. I take a low-dose statin for borderline (doctor said hereditary) cholesterol. Retail, it costs around the same as a daily “Sharing Size” bag of peanut M&Ms and a lot less than heart disease and surgery.
Obamacare says I can’t be denied healthcare for taking care of my health and reducing my cost to the healthcare system. My rates also reflect that I pay for people who don’t take care of their health. Like Geico makes me pay for bad drivers. It’s the cost of democracy’s blessings, the old “all for one and one for all.”
So I hate how Trump, goading and goaded by his poor, misled and misguided base, has been righteously, cheerily killing Obamacare. My premiums have doubled under Trump to over $800/month with a $6,500 out of pocket because he has systematically dismantled the ACA. But offering nothing bigger, better or more beautiful to replace it as he promised/lied to be elected.
As Trump makes immigration a top national issue, he’s oddly mute about what affects most Americans every day in a very real way, our health and well being.
In any event, forgive me for being resentful of folks who can count on government or employer coverage — that as a taxpayer I’m funding — for letting Trump kill my ACA coverage.
Then on the left we have Bernie and his cohort thrilling the “progressive” base with promises of Medicare for all.
“Other countries do it; why can’t we?” is the cry backed by indisputable footnoted and peer-reviewed academic papers and policy hothouse wonks that ignore the frustrations of patients in Canada, the UK and other countries with national health services.
BernieCare acolytes also ignore that it’s a political nonstarter, aka, Trump reelection fat pitch across the plate (“Democrat socialist big government bureaucrats dictating our lives!”). Polls show most Americans covered by private health insurance fear losing it. Many covered by government plans despise government; i.e., bite the hand that feeds. Republicans with Medicare don’t want everyone to have it; i.e., I got mine.
Between Trump killing Obamacare and the fantasy of Berniecare, I’m screwed up the ying-yang (the medical term is “wazoo”) without a proctologist.
I’ll be heading back to the old Wild West of the “private market” where unfettered free enterprise and competition improves care, lowers costs and saves lives.
Like Purdue Pharma did with the opioid crisis. Or Mylan did in boosting EpiPen prices from $100 to $600 for a two-pack. Or hedge-fund “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli did by jacking the price of a life-saving drug by 500 percent.
Whatever happens as I slouch towards Medicare, I have a 10-point backup health insurance plan I call “JeffCare”:
- Avoid expensive checkups, scans, screenings, shots and above all, prescription drugs.
- Ignore any bleeding cough, weird lumps, or collapsing in a faint.
- Yell at the CVS MinuteClinic nurse practitioners because they don’t have any idea what’s wrong with me.
- Call an Uber and look for “Qumar” driving a gray Corolla to take me to the public hospital ER because I can’t drive myself.
- When too sick to take an Uber, crawl to my phone, tap 911 and let EMTs come and strap me into a gurney and give me an even more exciting ride than Qumar.
- Eventually get sicker, then mortally sick.
- Rack up medical bills I could never pay so the healthcare system (everyone else) pays.
- Complain about greedy doctors. Argue about their treatments because of something I saw on the internet. Doctors think they’re so smart just because they went to college and medical school.
- Accept a calendar invite from the Grim Reaper.
- Select the closed-casket service since I’ll be leaving a worse-looking corpse than necessary.
Perfect plan? Hardly. But at least it’s something Trump and Republicans in Congress could support. No problem if I don’t have affordable insurance. They do.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.