June 29, 2012
First, let’s get something straight: health care shouldn’t be a political issue.
In 2009 when the debate over health care reform began, I had hope that people would reasonably work together to fix a huge problem in our country. According to a Harvard study from the same year, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2007 were caused by health problems. Of those, 78 percent had health insurance.
I have been lucky so far to avoid anything major in my 34 years on this big rock. But not everybody is. Kids younger than me have died playing sports. Aimee Copeland is still recovering from a rare flesh-eating bug that cost her part of her limbs.
But despite this rational desire to see our health care system improved, sure enough politics got in the way.
President Barack Obama had been inaugurated earlier in the year to much fanfare as the nation’s first black president. He was already a historical figure. I like the guy because I agree with him on many things and he shows a cool demeanor even when the rest of us would more resemble a rabid dog.
But the problem with our presidents of late is they have to deal with this body of people we call “Congress.” It’s not so bad on parchment, but for the past two decades -- at least -- it has been a body of crazy people.
We all watched the dance that went on in Congress. Republicans supported measures and voiced support in committees only to just about never cast a vote about casting a vote on the various bills. Some Democrats wouldn’t budge on the public option for a while. I support it, but you’ve got to be willing to compromise on such sweeping legislation. Then we had the mother of all pork, Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback.”
From the midst of all that, plus the Democrats losing a filibuster-proof 60 member majority in the middle of the process, emerged what became known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Some have called it “Obamacare.”
Despite all of the denouncement of the act because of nonsensical things like “IT’S SO LONG!” and “IT’S GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE” -- neither of which inherently mean “bad,” the latter of which isn’t even true -- it has emerged as something that will help a lot of people.
The highlights when fully rolled out in 2014: no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, subsidies to help people who can’t afford insurance, putting most of the country into the health care market so we all have so-called skin in the game instead of the emergency room health care so many choose or are forced to use.
So why has this become a “blow to freedom” and “the largest tax increase in history?” It’s purely politics.
You are still going to be free to choose which health coverage you want based on what’s available. As someone who is going through a career change to reinvent myself, this is kind of important. I have ideas for what I want to do to make a living, and tying something so vital to my well-being mainly to jobs or striking it rich kills my freedom to pursue my own interests.
Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Court on the PPACA, officially called National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, brought forth the “largest tax increase” charge by Sean Hannity and many others. It’s really just semantics outside of the legal ruling. The basic outcome is if you don’t buy health insurance, you will be forced to pay money to the IRS unless you meet an exemption or your income is below a certain level.
According to a Congressional Budget Office report the New York Times published yesterday, 224 million Americans under the age of 65 have health insurance. There are 60 million uninsured. The number drops to 27 million with the health care law.
The majority of the remaining uninsured who will be affected by the penalty are illegal immigrants and people who would just rather pay the penalty.
I know that’s a lot of wonky explanation, but what is so freedom-crushing about this? Unless you bow down to a certain political ideology from which you cannot be moved, this is freakin’ great news for our country.
In my search for new insurance, I have discovered the possibility of joining the high-risk pool created as part of the initial steps of the law’s implementation. I might not be eligible for that for six months, but so far in my search, COBRA is my only option. The high-risk pool option costs half as much.
I want to buy insurance. I don’t want to cheat the system until I’m majorly sick. But I want a price I can afford and don’t want to be subject to discrimination because I’m not part of some group of people at a workplace buying it together. If there are 60 million uninsured people in the U.S., that’s the biggest group of insurance-buyers in the country.
I understand that the law isn’t perfect. But neither are humans. We shouldn’t let politics play with people’s lives and health. In a nation of so many people claiming to be Christians, wouldn’t Jesus want us to help the poor as much as we can? I don’t see him as the type to say, “Can’t pay for it? Too bad.” Believe in his divinity or not, he sets a good example. Let’s all take care of each other, stop fighting stupid battles and make our country better.
Michael Buckelew is a freelance writer from Winder.