And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Obamacare clarification

Over the weekend on the linkee-poo I made a few comments about the new anti-Obamacare drumbeat of "Oh noes, the insurance company cancelled my insurance and now I have to buy something better."

My friend and fellow writer Ferrett Steinmetz posted to his blog a thoughtful take on some of us liberals defending the ACA and some of the stupid things liberals do. I'm not sure Ferrett was responding to my post, but I can see that someone might take the point he is making as something I implied in my post.

So, first up, let me say I get it. Yes, paying more for something you were already buying and used to set your budget around totally sucks. It sucks if you're poor and it still sucks if you're middle class or rich. After all, most people (like 80% or so of us) are a few paychecks away from disaster. I never meant to say otherwise, but was making a point about how the media really isn't telling you even half of the story here in their attempt to tell you that Obamacare is bad (here I include the vast majority of media, and despite the conservative meme of "they's all hates us", the general media is not liberally biased).

I also get being poor. Believe me. Since John Scalzi recently did a "10 things I've done that you probably haven't" let me tell you about my growing up. There were many times we had to make those choices. As some of you know, my metabolism is messed up. This is the result of eating cheap calories for most of my life. I used to wear jeans two waist sizes too big and 4" too long in the inseam because we could hem them up and baste in the waist. I typically wore these until they were waders (only once do I remember outgrowing the waist size). One of my comfort foods is mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and peanut butter (besides bread, two of those we grew in our garden and one of those came in large cans from government surplus). In college I wore Goodwill purchase clothes and did pull one jacket out of the dumpster (for me, fortunately these were less than 50% of my wardrobe). I stole toilet paper to make ends meet. I can no longer really stomach raman noodles (and still consider adding a can of peas as "that special dinner"), but for some reason I haven't completely worn out my taste for macaroni and cheese (often made without milk and seasoned with ketchup if I was lucky and could steal a few packages from McDs). I understand the difference an extra $50 makes a month.

As an adult, I've been fortunate that I can now help friends and my mother financially. But when I lost the printing job I had a raging ear infection that I let going to the point that I would get shooting pains if I moved my head because I didn't want to spend the $75 to go to the urgent care (and then whatever the drugs would be). I also had an allergic reaction so strong that at my second interview for the day job I currently have I could barely close my hands. If I had known I would have a good job within 6 months, I could have afforded those things quickly and would have gotten help sooner. At the time, though, I didn't know how long I would be out of work, so I was saving as much as I could. I have damaged my ear and now have infections about every 4-6 months (we're trying to repair all the damage I let happen, but that may not be fully possible). My hands still occasionally hurt, but haven't swelled that much since then.

And I was better off than some of my friends.

So, yeah, I get that. But if you're at that low income level, chances are you qualify for either the Medicare expansion (fortunately approved by Gov. Kasich here in Ohio) or subsidies to help pay for your coverage. Also, this is just one of the very many reasons why I support increasing the minimum wage. Jobs that used to be considered "first jobs for teenagers" (of which I've had a few) are now "bread winning jobs." This is why "asset checks" are evil (IMHO). People who have enough in the bank rarely apply for help, and why shouldn't we allow people to have a reserve that can help them get off of assistance even quicker. And, frankly, this is why I still support the single-payor concept of healthcare.

But the point I was trying to make is better made by this chart (Grokked from Jay Lake). Approximately 94% of people will either benefit from or have no change because of Obamacare. For three percent it'll be a wash. The last three percent will be adversely affected. So when people tell you about how "it's all bad", now you know the percentages. Those 3% have a microphone and they're using it now. And this is not to diminish their pain. This will be hard for a large number of people (that 3% is a lot of people after all).

That doesn't mean there aren't people in that 94% who think they're being misused either. But it's not news when "nothing happened." It's only news when people are devastated (because even the news has had to ramp up the drama to keep us interested). You rarely get news of the "my life is better because…" unless it has to do with individual heroes helping individuals. It's a well known fact that government can't help you and the media is damn sure they're going to make sure you continue to think that.

A lot of what Obamacare does in the market is shift cost from government and as a collective to the individual. Not all of it. We're still going to pay a premium for those who can't pay their healthcare bills, who file bankruptcies because of healthcare payments (although it should be less than we've had before because of regulations regarding the dropping of insurance and yearly and lifetime caps), and those who have insurance that isn't all that great still (it's a game of relativity after all). But now some of that cost we've all been bearing (if you pay medicare, income tax, and have descent health insurance) will now be spread out farther and will be financed in more direct ways.

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