Rena W. deserves Obamacare

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Rena at work

Rena W. is a 35-year-old small business owner — the co-owner, actually, of an Atlanta hair salon. She works hard but doesn’t make enough money to purchase health insurance.
A mother of three, Rena has high cholesterol and hypertension. Last month, she suffered a mini-stroke, a calamity that brought confusion, a brief bout of aphasia and a trip to the emergency room. She has recovered but now owes the hospital $17,000 for her treatment, a debt that she says will take her years to re-pay.
Rena is just the sort of hard-working American for whom the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — routinely called “Obamacare” — is designed. She can now purchase a policy that will pay for the medical care she needs and ensure against any more medical emergencies. (If only she’d had that insurance a bit sooner, she would not be burdened by debt.)
But for reasons that are hard to grasp, Republicans are apparently willing to throw the American economy over the cliff — and to further destabilize an already-shaky global economy, as well — just to keep Rena from being able to buy affordable health insurance. If the government shutdown doesn’t force President Obama to forsake his signature legislative accomplishment, many Republicans say, they will refuse to lift the debt-ceiling, sending the country into default for the first time in history.
Again, this is all to prevent people like Rena from being able to purchase health insurance.
Having listened to the inflammatory, paranoid and highly creative debate over Obamacare since 2009, having witnessed countless tea party rallies and heard numerous critics outline the law’s alleged dangers, I still don’t understand the motives of its most deranged adversaries. I do know that all the other industrialized democracies ensure that the vast majority of their citizens have access to medical care, and none of those nations have gone up in smoke. They endure, with populations who are at least as healthy as Americans and who pay much less for their doctor’s visits and medicines.
Here in the United States, conservatives have railed against an expanding social safety net at least as far back as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which birthed the Social Security system to prevent old-age penury. The campaign to create Medicare brought similar warnings of dire consequences, with no less a true-blue conservative than Ronald Reagan insisting that it would put the country on the slippery slope to socialism.
In a recorded message, he told listeners that if they didn’t oppose the creation of government-sponsored health care for retirees, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
As you know, none of those dire predictions came to pass, and both Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular. Still, that hasn’t stopped a certain mind-bending cognitive dissonance: many in the Republican Party’s tea-party camp, where Obamacare is regarded as the devil’s own handiwork, are themselves beneficiaries of Medicare, which is closer to socialism than virtually any other government program. Go figure.
Among conservative intellectuals, it’s popular to pretend that Republicans will eventually replace Obamacare with a much better program that would promote affordable health care without any of the alleged flaws of the current law. But the most honest among them admit that Congressional Republicans have no current plan to replace Obamacare, only to repeal it.
Rena had managed, until now, to avoid medical crises by buying her prescriptions from discount pharmacies and paying out of pocket for annual check-ups. Her children are covered by Medicaid. She is married, but her husband also lacks health insurance — which contradicts the popular notion that single motherhood is to blame for the growing crisis of the have-nots.
She is one of those who plays by the rules, working hard and hewing to the American dream. She’s an owner of a genuine small business, not a wealthy law partner or successful online entrepreneur of the sort Republicans tend to point to when they talk about “small business owners.” Aren’t conservatives big supporters of that commercial sector?
So why, again, are Republicans so furious that she will be able to purchase health insurance?

Comments

  1. GoDodgers says:

    It is intellectually dishonest to set up a straw man, and beat it down. This kind of writing is sloppy.

    Republicans aren’t opposed to her buying health insurance. She certainly could have purchased health insurance for herself and her family last year, and the year before. There is nothing in the pre-Obamacare era that would stop her from getting health insurance.

    The fact that she and her husband elected to not buy health insurance was their free choice. Sure, it is a choice we all have to make. And there are consequences to not having it. If Cynthia Tucker would actually sit down, and talk to the subject of this column, it is likely that Rena would express a desire to have purchased health insurance, instead of having a $17,000 hospital bill.

    But she didn’t.

    The ironic detail in this story is Tucker leads the reader to assume that Obamacare is the answer to Rena’s problems. Yet the fact remains that Rena ALWAYS had access to healthcare, and she got the healthcare intervention she needed.

    The question distills simply: Who pays for Rena’s healthcare – Rena, or you?

    • ctucker says:

      Rena could not afford health insurance. Nor could many, many Americans who are not insured through their employers. I think you know that. Yes, she has access to health care — and a$17,000 bill to show for it.

  2. Michelle Mosley says:

    Ms. Tucker, I read you editorial in Sunday’s Press Register and thought I should disabuse you of you naive and simplistic view of Obamacare. Just the previous day, my husband and I received a letter from Alabama Blue Cross Blue Shield telling us that our monthly premiums will be going up from $683 a month to $985 dollars a month. The $683 originally included dental. If we want to continue to have dental, we will now have to pay an additional $75 a month, pushing our costs to about $1,060 per month. In the literature sent, we were told that the premium increase is because of the “requirements” of Obamacare when it goes into effect in January. The requirements that they refer to are stated to be “Affordable Care Act fees and taxes”. My husband is a car salesman and I sell real estate part time and substitute teach. We just came out of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy because our speciality pharmacy went under because of all the changes that began after the Affordable Care Act was passed (bi-partisan it was not!) Our home is in foreclosure. We have had to sell almost everything of any value whatsoever just to buy food. I know you probably think that all white people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth; but my husband and I were born to fathers with 8th grade educations and grandparents who were sharecroppers. We worked our way through college and were the first of our families to graduate college. We come from people who believe that the government owes us nothing, but the right to live free and try to better ourselves honestly. We have had a bitter lesson. We have a son who is a severe hemophiliac. This is an extremely expensive chronic condition. If you are not familiar with it, just google it. It is incurable. The cost of his medications runs around $40,000 dollars a month. This is to keep him alive and healthy. We do not qualify for Medicaid, nor do we want to be on the government dole. We have striven to basically work some months just to pay the $683 premium and the electric bill, phone bill, internet bill, and water bill. No housing because we are in foreclosure. I have no sympathy for people who have high cholesterol and high hypertension (I have both) as somehow being an excuse for not biting the bullet and buying their own private coverage. Private coverage was already available to Rena, it just would not have covered her pre-existing conditions for the waiting period, usually 12 months. As a former social worker, I am baffled as to how a small business owner running a hair salon is able to get her kids qualified for Medicaid with the income threshhold being so low that you practically have to be destitute to qualify. Please, if you have the balls, email me back and explain how my family is better off for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Please explain how paying an extra $377 dollars a month now that we barely make is better for my family. Explain how we now cannot have dental insurance because we cannot afford it. The Rupublican “rancor” as you put it, is just people who have been elected to represent the interest of their constituencies; i.e. we dont want the government to take care of us at the expense of all those rich folks out there. I think we hardly qualify as rich folks. Before you offer up such a sweeping and condemning editorial, you might want to inform yourself a little and stop seeing things in black and white.
    It’s easy to have an opinion but wisdom is much harder attained. Incidentally, my wealthy blue-collar uncle who works in maintenance at a local plant (he maintains refrigeration units) is seeing his insurance going up from $600 a month to $1400. Your article has so many fallacies I could rant all night, but you can not deny numbers. The numbers will prove out that Obamacare is designed to levy more taxes and fees on everyone except the “very poor”. Even those who qualify for the subsidies are unlikely to receive enough benefits to offset more than a small portion of the increased premiums. It is an insult that you have a national forum to air you ignorance.

    • ctucker says:

      Ms. Mosley, There are indeed a small people whose premiums will increase because of Obamacare. Before you conclude that you cannot afford your new premiums, however, you should check with the exchanges to see if you are eligible for a cheaper policy or for subsidies. Given your foreclosure, you may be eligible for subsidies that will help you afford it. (Alabama has not made it easy for you to find that out, but that information is available.) As for your ridiculous assertion that I believe all whites are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, what makes you think Rena isn’t white?

      • Michelle Mosley says:

        Ms Tucker,
        At what point in my comment did I imply that I thought Rena was black, white, indian, or asian? My assertion about your bias toward white people may be unfair, but it was derived more from having read a few of your previous articles. Primarily, your articles dealing with any and all policies that President Obama has supported at some point implies that people who disagree with him are doing so because he is “black”. The Color of a persons skin has nothing to do with disagreeing with policies that are harmful to that persons family and country. The bottom line is the fact that it is not a “small people” that are being negatively affected by seeing large increases in their cost of insurance that in turn will pay for other people who “deserve insurance”. This is classic redistribution of wealth and the sad part is that middle class America will end up footing the bill. Why does any one person “deserve” to gain healthcare at the expense of another? I do not want to be forced into a “Federal Exchange” to get lower premiums when I was happy with what I had. I do not want to depend on a government for subsidies to offset higher costs that were caused by that same overreaching government that can’t even afford to keep our memorials open to our citizens. Big Labor is exempt, Government officials are exempt, Large corporations are exempt. President Obama stated that anyone who was happy with their healthcare would not be affected and could keep that healthcare. An added $375 per month does not qualify in my book as not affected.

  3. JLacik says:

    Ms. Tucker,

    I read the editorial in our Huntsville, Alabama Sunday paper and I came to the website to get your correct email address to send a reply. We used to get your columns every Sunday for years and I have always enjoyed your opinions even if I don’t always agree with them. When the paper changed owners, your column was one of many quality casualties.

    I read what Michelle Mosley wrote in her reply and except for the racial implications, she pretty much laid out the situation I and many Alabamians (and I suspect individuals in many states are facing) have just found ourselves in. Everyone I talk to here that has an individual Alabama BCBS policy (and BCBS Alabama has 88% of the business in Alabama), including myself is going to see their rates DOUBLE (that’s a 100% increase!) for 2014 under the ACA. I worked for 25 years to build a strong career only to be unemployed at 56, and can barely afford the rates now (for coverage that is nowhere near as good as the employer coverage I used to have). My wife is on SS Disability (and of course her Medicare Advantage rates continue to rise under the ACA).

    Those subsidies you mention? It turns out that to receive any subsidies at all you have to be employed and make at least just under $12,000/year to receive them. That means the people that truly need the financial help if the rates are going to double are the folks that are unemployed, and we don’t qualify!

    But people like Ms. Mosley and I don’t want subsidies. What we want is to be able to work hard and buy insurance at reasonable rates and not wind up subsidizing the people that currently don’t have insurance. Sure, most of us would be glad if everyone had the affordable opportunity to buy quality health insurance, but the ACA is not it. When Nancy Pelosi said “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it”, we should have all known we were going to be in deep trouble. One of the primary reasons the rates are going to double besides insurance companies now having no pre-existing condition exclusion is that the government can not tell private businesses what they can charge. Sure, they put in the law that older people can not be charged more then 3 times the rate of the youngest, but that didn’t stop the insurance company from setting the youngest rate level wherever they wanted. The least that should have been included in the law was to restrict rate increases year to year starting with a comparable 2013 plan in your own state to no more than 10 – 15%. The insurance industry is a tight group of companies. Did anyone really think there would be no collusion among companies and that the exchanges would be a place where insurance companies actually competed for your business which would drive rates down?

    Like Ms. Mosley I don’t know what we are going to do. Sell the house, file for bankruptcy……. ..is this the USA of the future?

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