If after reading this column you are dumb enough to bring up Obamacare to a small businessman, you deserve the rant. Better to learn from my mistake, dear reader, and talk about happier things. Like allergic reactions or the Carter administration.
Over lunch Thursday at Fiamma Burger with local writer friend “Zack,” I brought up healthcare. We break bread about once a month to talk shop. How are the book projects going, what’s the best approach to break into a new market, that sort of thing. And of course, how is the family?
It was the family situation that dragged us into the thicket of health insurance reform. Zack is married with children and self-employed. That used to be a rough row to hoe for insurance purposes. Now it’s an impossible one.
In the past, Zack had somehow managed to insure his family under Washington’s stringent insurance requirement regime, which had chased away many insurers and bid up premiums. It was expensive to cover his family but he worked hard and they found a way.
Obamacare presented them with special difficulties. Zack thought he was going to have to pay several hundred dollars more a month for roughly the same level of coverage for him and his wife, before you even factored in the kids. They didn’t have the money for it.
Zack finally managed to insure himself and the missus for roughly what they pay now, for an Obamacare-compliant plan with a $6,000-plus deductible. That should come in handy if one of them is struck by a car. Other expenses will have to be covered out of pocket, costing them more.
As for the kids, Zack couldn’t swing it. He had to sign them up for a highly subsidized public plan offered by the state. “Under Obamacare, I went from being a successful, self-sustaining small businessman,” Zack told me, disdainfully, “to now signing my kids up as dependents of the state.”
He asked if I’d seen Michael Moore’s latest op-ed in the New York Times. “I loved the title,” he said, “‘The Obamacare We Deserve.’ Here you have a liberal writer saying ‘Of course Obamacare is a failure.’ And the reason it’s a failure is that it still has some corporations involved. What we really need is a single-payer Canada-like plan.”
Zack wasn’t buying this at all. He still has relatives in Canada and knowledge of the workings of the country’s health care system. One elderly relation badly needs a hip replacement and has been waiting for the Maple syrup-paced Canadian hospitals to deliver.
“He’ll get a replacement at some point, when they get around to it,” Zack told me. “He’s on the list. That’s what they say up there. ‘You’re on the list.’”
Lacking any good thing to say, I changed the subject, mocking the op-ed writer’s orotundity (“there’s fat and then there’s MICHAEL MOORE”), and telling an unrelated story.
But it seems striking and perverse to me now that the Obama administration considers Zack’s story a success story.
Zack and family had their plan cancelled in the initial wave of seven million or so voided policies. These were folks who purchased their plans on the individual insurance market. The vast majority of cancelees do not have new plans to fill this government-caused, and government outlawed, gap.
Zack’s family is one of the allegedly lucky ones. They managed to navigate the maze and secure some sort of coverage, for now.
The government views the adults’ old insurance as “junk,” to use the president’s word. They view their new policy in roughly the same way. It may check off all the right bureaucratic boxes, but it will cover less as a practical matter and thus cost them more.
In Obamacare’s eyes, the kids are covered and thus not a problem. In their parents’ eyes, it’s quite different. Mom and Dad are shrugging off some of the financial burden of their children onto the backs of taxpayers not because they want to do so but because they are left with no other practical alternative.
When he was selling his namesake legislation, Obama repeated as a mantra, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.” We are now discovering just what a contemptible thing that was to say.