The GOP released its long-awaited Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) replacement, and the general consensus is that the new bill stinks. It has been met with such a lack of enthusiasm from the right that there is a very real possibility that the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as it has been named, is dead on arrival. The Democrats will never support this bill, and a large portion of the Republicans in Congress will not do so either, as the bill is currently written.
Obamacare has faced regular attacks from the Republican Party, since before it was even passed. It was victim to such rhetorical fantasies as death panels and the like. The act fit in nicely with all of the other fevered conspiracy theories surrounding the Obama administration, and like all those others, none of the dastardly things said about Obamacare were true. And these false narratives about the act still hold sway among members of Congress as they pander to the extreme members of the party’s base. When he announced the AHCA, House Speaker Paul Ryan, one of the most craven men ever to serve in Congress, said, “This unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare.”
Did I write that Paul Ryan was craven? Because it actually takes some stones to stand in front of a bank of microphones and say something so utterly, completely untrue. Suffering? Suffering?! Tens of millions of Americans who did not have health insurance before Obamacare now have it. These are people who no longer have to worry about financial destruction should they get seriously ill. Also, because they have insurance, these millions are now more likely to seek out preventive care, which leads to a healthier and longer life, and lowers the overall cost of healthcare in the long run. I am one of those people.
When I’m not writing for Missile Test or trying to bang out another novel, I’m a freelance web developer. Before that, I had a regular job with a local company, and I bought my insurance through them. I left that position to become a contractor in 2011, but I still purchased health insurance through my former employer under the auspices of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, or COBRA. That act is not designed to allow a person to continue to purchase health insurance through a former employer forever, so eventually I had to shop around for my own coverage. By this time, Obamacare had been passed, but it was not yet an active law — the first date of coverage being January 1st, 2014. For me, there was a little less than two years where I had to find my own coverage.
After only a couple of days of shopping around, I gave up. The cheapest quote that I got from a health insurance company for anything more than emergency room and catastrophic coverage was $1,200 a month, and that was for an HMO. For a desirable PPO, which has a lower deductible and no need for referrals, among other things, the cheapest quote I got was a whopping $3,600 a month. To put that in perspective, the insurance at my former employer was a PPO at $400 a month, and that was expensive for single coverage through an employer. I had an interview recently at a much larger company and one of their employee health plans, also a PPO, costs $140 a month. I decided that I couldn’t afford to purchase insurance on my own, and went without coverage until Obamacare kicked in.
When the health exchanges opened under Obamacare, I purchased a mid-level plan, an HMO, for $385 a month. My income from freelancing is too high to qualify for subsidies, so that $385 a month was a hard cost. It’s not a perfect health plan, in that there’s a lot of running around and cajoling that an HMO forces a customer to perform to actually convince the HMO one needs to see a doctor. But, it is far better than being uninsured, and the cost is not prohibitive.
My premiums have risen every year, from the initial $385, to $407, to $452, and now, in 2017, to $518 a month. That’s a 74% increase since 2014 — a rate far higher than inflation. This has been due to less healthy people signing up for Obamacare, the penalties for remaining uninsured being too low, and the general, cobbled-together, over-compromised nature of the act itself. Obamacare has been a flawed bill from the start — a half-measure that does little for the reputations of both the open market and the ideal of single payer — but for me, and many others, it has been a success.
It infuriates me when I hear Obamacare so mischaracterized from members of the Republican Party. All they have said in the last seven years is that Obamacare is destructive, that it kills people, that it’s a government handout, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Never once have they used the bully pulpit for actual conservative objections to the bill. It’s always been about regaining the White House for the Republicans, which is why, in the seven years they had to come up with a real alternative to Obamacare, they offered nothing. Now, after huddling in secret for only a few weeks, they offer a garbage bill that can’t pay for itself, and which amounts to little more than tax breaks for the rich. It’s just more evidence that when it comes to actually running this country, the Republican Party is ready, willing, and able to abrogate that responsibility to serve their paymasters in the 1%.
Addendum: The New York Times published a set of graphics today that shows that my experience with rising premiums is very much in the minority, and has to do with my yearly income pushing me out of the tax bracket eligible for subsidies.