The Obamacare We Deserve
By MICHAEL MOORE
DECEMBER 31, 2013
NEW YORK TIMES
TODAY marks the beginning of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges, for which two million Americans have signed up. Now that the individual mandate is officially here, let me begin with an admission: Obamacare is awful.
That is the dirty little secret many liberals have avoided saying out loud for fear of aiding the president’s enemies, at a time when the ideal of universal health care needed all the support it could get. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of blaming companies like Novartis, which charges leukemia patients $90,000 annually for the drug Gleevec, or health insurance chief executives like Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, who made nearly $102 million in 2009, for the sky-high price of American health care, the president’s Democratic supporters bought into the myth that it was all those people going to get free colonoscopies and chemotherapy for the fun of it.
I believe Obamacare’s rocky start — clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president’s telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could — is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go. When right-wing critics “expose” the fact that President Obama endorsed a single-payer system before 2004, they’re actually telling the truth.
What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney’s car. And we knew it.
By 2017, we will be funneling over $100 billion annually to private insurance companies. You can be sure they’ll use some of that to try to privatize Medicare.
For many people, the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act risks being a cruel joke. The cheapest plan available to a 60-year-old couple making $65,000 a year in Hartford, Conn., will cost $11,800 in annual premiums. And their deductible will be $12,600. If both become seriously ill, they might have to pay almost $25,000 in a single year. (Pre-Obamacare, they could have bought insurance that was cheaper but much worse, potentially with unlimited out-of-pocket costs.)
And yet — I would be remiss if I didn’t say this — Obamacare is a godsend. My friend Donna Smith, who was forced to move into her daughter’s spare room at age 52 because health problems bankrupted her and her husband, Larry, now has cancer again. As she undergoes treatment, at least she won’t be in terror of losing coverage and becoming uninsurable. Under Obamacare, her premium has been cut in half, to $456 per month.
Let’s not take a victory lap yet, but build on what there is to get what we deserve: universal quality health care.
Those who live in red states need the benefit of Medicaid expansion. It may have seemed like smart politics in the short term for Republican governors to grab the opportunity offered by the Supreme Court rulings that made Medicaid expansion optional for states, but it was long-term stupid: If those 20 states hold out, they will eventually lose an estimated total of $20 billion in federal funds per year — money that would be going to hospitals and treatment.
In blue states, let’s lobby for a public option on the insurance exchange — a health plan run by the state government, rather than a private insurer. In Massachusetts, State Senator James B. Eldridge is trying to pass a law that would set one up. Some counties in California are also trying it. Montana came up with another creative solution. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who just completed two terms, set up several health clinics to treat state workers, with no co-pays and no deductibles. The doctors there are salaried employees of the state of Montana; their only goal is their patients’ health. (If this sounds too much like big government to you, you might like to know that Google, Cisco and Pepsi do exactly the same.)
All eyes are on Vermont’s plan for a single-payer system, starting in 2017. If it flies, it will change everything, with many states sure to follow suit by setting up their own versions. That’s why corporate money will soon flood into Vermont to crush it. The legislators who’ll go to the mat for this will need all the support they can get: If you live east of the Mississippi, look up the bus schedule to Montpelier.
So let’s get started. Obamacare can’t be fixed by its namesake. It’s up to us to make it happen.
Michael Moore is a documentary filmmaker whose 2007 film “Sicko” examined the American health care industry.
Tuesday, 07 January 2014
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
Republican sabotage is killing Americans.
Never in the history of our nation has a political party tried so hard to actively sabotage a piece of legislation like today's Republican Party is doing with Obamacare.
Republicans in Washington and across the nation are so committed to sabotaging President Obama's presidency that they're willing to let people die.
While Republicans have failed 47 times to repeal Obamacare or at the very least defund it on the national level, their relentless sabotage efforts are working very well on the state level.
From Texas to Florida, Republicans are preventing millions of Americans from having access to affordable, life-saving health care.
Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology at Harvard, has compiled data showing just how successful Republican sabotage efforts over Obamacare have been.
As a result, those states have only enrolled a small fraction of their citizens eligible for Medicaid, and their enrollments in the federal health care exchange aren't much better.
Similarly, in states that chose to only expand Medicaid, or to let the government run their health insurance exchanges but not expand Medicaid, enrollment numbers are just as bad.
Again, millions of Americans in those states don't have access to health care because Republicans are putting politics ahead of people's lives.
But compare enrollment numbers in Republican-controlled states to those in Democratically-controlled states, and the difference is staggering.
As Skocpol notes, states like California and New York, that have both expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and created their own state-run exchanges are having very few problems signing up their citizens up for health care.
Skocpol told TPM that, ""You go back to how the law was designed, for better or worse, it gave states a lot of responsibility. The states that have actually done things the way the law envisaged are the ones that are, at this early stage, doing the most toward those goals."
She added that, "But the 'Just Say No' states are putting all their lower income residents at risk, not just by refusing to expand Medicaid but also, in many cases, by failing to help people get subsidized private coverage through the exchange."
And Republican sabotage in these "Just Say No" states isn't just keeping Americans from having access to health care. It's keeping money out their wallets too.
Since the government is picking up 100% of the costs of Medicaid expansion for the next three years, by refusing to expand the program, Republican lawmakers aren't saving their states any money. Instead, they are preventing their constituents from reaping the rewards of their tax dollars.
The sabotage we are seeing today from the Republican Party is unprecedented, costly, and deadly.
Republicans lawmakers are willing to let people die, just to put a permanent stain on the Obama presidency.
And that's just wrong.
This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.
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By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
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By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed