Saturday, October 01, 2016

That "Damn Obamacare"

Disclaimer:  This post is not about really about Obama, nor about Clinton versus Trump, and not really about politics. 

I am retired from the ministry, unlike when I started this blog.  A few years ago a business colleague and I started our own small insurance business.  She had seen "Obamacare" aka "The Affordable Care Act" on the horizon and had worked to learn what she could about what was coming--both good and bad.  From previous employment, I had expertise in the Medicare side of things. We decided that I would handle the Medicare business and she would work with other types of health insurance.

It was work. No one knew us. We were small. We were opening our office on a tiny budget. Now, about five years later, I can say we are proud of what has transpired .  We have learned a great deal. Our little company has grown, has a good reputation, and our success is starting to actually mean we earn some money.  My daughter joined us a couple of years ago to provide office support, and last month we added a third agent and another office person.  One of these days I will retire.  I am 66 this year.  I hoped to retire from ministry at about age 70.  That didn't happen, but I can be thankful for what has happened.  

Back to the title of this post.  There is much I could say about "Obamacare." We rant talk about it every single day. I have seen people leave our office nearly in tears because finally they can afford health insurance.  Or perhaps a pre-existing condition won't prevent them, or an ill child, from having healthcare coverage. Sometimes there have been hugs. I have also seen anger and frustration about the negative aspects of the "affordable" care act.  

It has made insurance accessible and affordable for many middle-income people. There is simply no denying that.  It has also had negative ramifications that have made insurance more expensive for others. No denying that either. The federal exchange, or "marketplace" is a bit of a debacle. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is a bloated and baffling example of the mess that can happen when a big bureaucracy tries to be helpful. There are serious problems. I won't go into that here...not enough space.  And this post really isn't about Obamacare (also called the "federal exchange" or "the insurance marketplace").  It is about something more important to me.

I have been appalled at the amount of finger pointing and name-calling--not to mention completely incorrect information--that we have encountered in the last few years. Yesterday I had an encounter that was a disturbing example of much that concerns me about America these days.  Some details have been changed to maintain privacy, but the key details are intact.

I spoke with a person who had been receiving Medicaid, our taxpayer-funded national program of health coverage for low-income people, along with Medicare, our partly private, partly taxpayer-funded national program for aged or sometimes disabled, individuals.  He is disabled, but had recently been able to return to working part-time.  However, that meant his income went up and he lost his Medicaid coverage.  He still has Medicare, but there are significant coverage gaps in the Medicare program, including no coverage for medications.  

He was really not happy about losing Medicaid. There was lots of complaining about how "they" won't give a person a break, and so on.  I did understand his frustration that working, even part-time, was causing significant problems.  He was considering leaving his job so he could still keep healthcare coverage.  Before our appointment, I spent several hours trying to come up with the the best, most affordable option for him.

I succeeded.  So, at the last possible moment on the last possible day, we got coverage.  I was at the office quite late in order to get this done, and I was happy that we had succeeded in working out coverage for a disabled person who would have been in serious difficulty if I had failed. Along they way, as we discussed plan details, there was a great deal more complaining about having to pay something towards his medical costs, followed by complaints about "those" people, who don't learn English, who use taxpayer money, who expect to have a "free ride." 

As we were wrapping things up, I asked if he had any further questions. "Yes," he said with a frown. "As a matter of fact, I do." He pointed at his plan materials.  "What does this insurance you signed me up for have to do with that damn Obamacare?"  I reminded him that he, not I, had signed the application, and I assured him that Medicare insurance plans are not connected with "Obamacare insurance."

"Oh, good," he said, leaning back in his chair, and crossing his arms  "I sure hope Trump wins this election."  I stood up, and did not comment one way or another about the election.  But my customer wasn't done. "I will vote for Donald Trump for one reason.  He will get rid of that damn Obamacare. There are too many people living off of the government."  

I bit my tongue and kept my mouth shut. I wish I could say this conversation was unusual.  

Don't misunderstand. I do not mind that my dollars, and yours, if you live in the USA, are quite literally keeping him from serious illness and likely painful death.  What keeps banging around in my head was his attitude of entitlement--as long as it was him who benefitted and not "those people," and his complaints about needing a break, and what appeared to be his complete lack of gratitude that I was working late to make sure he had access to medical care.  He never smiled.  He did not shake my hand.  He did not say thank you.  He did not seem relieved (I sure was) that we'd solved his serious problem in a reasonable way.    

That damn Obamacare.  But don't take away MY federal benefits.  It's those "others."  

We have many serious problems in the United States of America. I was born in 1950 and I've lived through some very tumultuous times.  I, along with many others, think we are headed in a dangerous direction.  I want America to be great.  

I also want Americans to acknowledge how fortunate, and how blessed we are.  And I think one of the biggest problems we have is a serious lack of gratitude and an astonishing propensity to blame, to point fingers and to call names.  Names like "libtard," or RINO, or fag or thug or Nazis, or "f*&^ing Liberals" or"stupid Evangelicals" or other names so obscene I won't type them. You haven't heard or read such names?  Spend just a few minutes on social media.

If you are grateful for the Affordable Care Act, I get it.  If you hate the Affordable Care Act, I understand that too!

If you are deeply concerned about many things in our nation, I stand with you in being concerned and sometimes horrified.  But complaining and blaming and calling names and pointing at the other guy never accomplished one good thing. 

Much more important than whether Obamacare stays or goes, or (my hope) gets a major overhaul, or whether a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent is in the White House, or who is appointed to the Supreme Court, or elected to Congress, is you and me and our attitudes. If we are going to solve our problems, we must stop calling names and pointing fingers and blaming. It is up to us.