Republicans continue to claim that "Obamacare" is a BAD LAW, and that they will be the ones who can "Save America" by destroying it, and the man who implemented it.
There is a lot of story-telling going on in America right now, stories as wild as an children’s fairy tale and containing about as much truth. As it is with most fairy tales, the story centers around an evil kingpin who is doing everything he can to destroy his country and all the people in it. In this case, the evil entity is the President of the United States, and his minions of lazy, subversive con-artists known as Democrats, Progressives, Lefties, and The Working Poor. The tellers of such tales are sure to point out that this dark and evil genius is being pursued by the heroic white knights in shining armor, committed to striking down the “bad laws” that the “bad guy” has put into place, and that they are willing to do anything to stop him and fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.
I would like to tell you a different story, a sort of modern-day parable of sorts. Only in this story, everything is true. Not just fairy tale true, either; real-life true. About just one of the supposedly lazy, subversive con-artist minions who believe that what the dark genius, our President, has created for his people is a gift, a gift for each and every one of his people, even those that don’t want to accept it. It is a tale worth reading, and sets out to entertain and educate those who have been misinformed by the duplicitous white knights and believe they know what is best.
Allow me to introduce the protagonists of our story, and perhaps you will take the time to measure which of his character attributes and flaws mark him as a weak and subversive leftist, and which more clearly define him as an American everyman, a modern day Horatio Alger or your dad’s best friend.
Our hero’s name is Danny, a 60+ year old Caucasian man, married to the second protagonist in our story, his wife of more than 30 years. Danny worked his way through college loading consumer goods onto trucks at a shipping company in Ohio; after graduation from college, he went to work for a local staffing company. When the “Rubber Belt” began to turn into the “Rust Belt” in the Midwest in the early 1980’s, he took a position with a firm in Tampa, Florida, where he and his wife Julie worked and lived with their growing family. In 1992, the little family returned to Ohio, where Danny would start his own successful small financial planning and accounting business. They raised three considerate and educated daughters, bought and sold a number of homes, business properties, automobiles, and all manner of consumer goods. Their children attended both public and private schools according to their needs, and both parents were (and remain) active in the lives of their children as well as their community at large. They are perhaps a perfect symbol of the American Family and its attendant values, living the “American Dream”.
But alas! Forces beyond our hero’s control would soon traumatize this idyllic American scene. In the winter of 2007, after a holiday season that included a shocking betrayal by his 12-year business partner and a lingering cough that left him exhausted, Danny would be diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a heart-weakening condition doctors established had been caused by a virus. Rocked to the core by the betrayal of a trusted associate and betrayed by his own body as well, it became clear that some things in our hero’s life would have to change. The loss of his partner and his physical stamina meant downsizing, both in his home and business, which meant moving from his large family home to one that was smaller and less physically demanding; it also meant closing the three “satellite” business offices around the state and letting his employees go.
By this time, the white knights of the Republican Party had had nearly full control of the government, the economy, and the media for several years. The economy was in serious free-fall, our country was at war, and our hero would have to maintain his office as a small, two-person operation.
As a small business owner, Danny had been able to provide his family and his employee’s enrollment in a large, national HMO. Once he received his cardiac diagnosis, however, his monthly premium for his family alone more than doubled to nearly $1700 per month. Discouraged by the high cost of the coverage and the mediocre care provided by his health care plan, he searched for better options. Those options, he soon discovered, were very few. After a harrowing three years of researching the complex maze of bare-minimum protection and high deductibles, “at risk” designations and insurance co-operative flimflams, he was finally able to secure reasonable insurance for himself and his family through a large group plan. When his doctors realized in 2010 that in order to stay alive, our hero would need a defibrillating pacemaker implanted inside his chest, he had the surgery. When that device got infected, his local physicians had him transferred to the Cleveland Clinic via Life-Flight helicopter, and when that device eventually failed and had to be replaced, the Clinic’s outstanding medical teams were able to once again save his life.
At this point, our hero is both concerned and slightly confused about exactly who and what his health care insurance covered, but he was able to continue to work, to maintain his small office, and pay his bills. For a while, anyway. On September 28, 2012, while on the way to a wedding rehearsal in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife, Danny’s heart stopped. Behind the wheel of his 6 day-old Hyundai, our unconscious hero did not realize that the vehicle was headed directly toward an oncoming car. In a panic, Julie turned the steering wheel sharply to the right, away from the oncoming traffic and toward the driveways and drainage ditches of the residential neighborhood on the proper side of the road. At that moment, the defibrillator in his pacemaker did its job and sent a shockwave of electricity through Danny’s heart. That series of shocks sent impulses to all parts of our hero’s body, causing him to tighten his grip on the steering wheel, and stiffening the leg attached to the foot still on the gas pedal. The last reading Julie had of the speedometer before the car crashed into the driveway culvert and flipped was 95 mph.
It was, by every conceivable standard, a miracle that both of our heroes survived. There were injuries, of course, including a broken neck and back for Julie, and some bruised ribs for Danny, but essentially, they were more than lucky. He would fly back to Ohio several days later, while Julie would remain in the hospital for a week, followed by a month of in-patient physical therapy, followed by months that will become years of ongoing therapy. The impact to Danny’s heart would only be revealed several months later, when doctors discovered that his heart had basically turned to “mush”, as they described it, necessitating immediate and dramatic action (and another trip by helicopter to the Cleveland Clinic) in order to save his life. Five months, seven surgeries, two mechanical hearts, and one generously donated human heart later, Danny would finally come back home for good in April of 2013 after a successful heart transplant.
Our hero and his bride will live happily ever after, having had the good fortune to be reminded how incredibly precious it is, this gift of life. That wonderful gift-life-is perhaps “divinely” granted; keeping that divine gift costs money. Sometimes, it costs a lot of money. And sometimes, even traditional, hard-working, middle aged American Caucasian men with successful businesses are bowled over by how much it costs.
In the meantime, the bills must be paid, and they have been. Our hero has had the good fortune of having saved his business, and made it successful, and has been able to pay most of the couple’s medical expenses as they accrue. Although they have not counted yet their ongoing costs, the out-of-pocket medical expenses for the last three months of 2012 alone (not including the helicopter flight or 5 of the 7 surgeries, or the transplant) was over $40,000.
Yes, that’s right, dear reader…that is $40,000 that our couple’s free-market insurance companies did not pay, our hero did. Out of the pocket of the successful-but-not-rich-by-any-means small business owner who has done EVERYTHING the white-knight Republican traditional-values police demand of the nation’s citizenry. And while they are part of a very small and select group of heroes who may actually survive such circumstances and be able to keep their lives as well as their home, it doesn’t look like our hero will be retiring any time soon.
But wait! Our hero was not saved by the treacherous and evil Obamaplan…how can he claim to believe that the Affordable Care Act is better than the plan that has saved his life? He got what he wanted, why worry about it? Could it be that our hero is really a worthless, freeloading, lazy subversive? Hardly. He is a Democrat, however, and a progressive one at that. He (and his loving wife) understand the frightful menace that health care costs have become. Both of our protagonists recognize that theirs has been a true adventure tale, one blessed with a fairy tale ending. They also know that their story, and its happy ending, are not available to everyone, and that is wrong. And that is worth fighting for.
(Now we get to the REALLY scary part of our adventure. Only in this part, the true heroes are captured and locked away while the bad guys throw a parade for themselves, dancing through the streets and pretending that they are the real good guys.)
There are people who are spending millions—and perhaps billions-- of dollars to convince you that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is not in your best interest, or worse, IS A BAD LAW. They make sure to convince you that the Health Care law is an aberration, an unconstitutional maneuver by the lazy Left who hate America and freedom, apple pie, and….
What happens to you, dear reader, or to other people with sudden notification of a catastrophic illness? What happens if your 5-year-old daughter is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and has to spend a week in the hospital while doctors try to get her blood sugar levels out of the danger zone? What happens if you don’t own your own business and can’t work or get paid for 4, 5 or 6 months? What if your employer-provided health insurance will leave you with $40, 000 or more unpaid to medical providers? Or worse, what happens if your insurance company refuses to pay for anything at all because they claim your illness or injury is due to a pre-existing condition? Or it refuses to pay for a life-saving surgery because they consider the surgery experimental, frivolous or the odds of recovery not good enough? Right now, under our current system, what happens is that many people die. Or are forced into bankruptcy. Or lose their homes. And THIS is what The Affordable Care Act was developed to PREVENT.
End of story.
Those folks masquerading as heroes, the ones who are telling you to FIGHT the President’s health care plan, that it will be the end of the world as we know it, can take that position because it doesn’t matter…YOU don’t matter….to them at all. They are true comic book villains; but Loki, Red Skull, Joker, and even Magneto have nothing on these villains. Like Magneto, they truly believe that they are the superior species, their vision the one that should dominate the planet, and that anyone who doesn’t believe the same way is either evil or ignorant—at any rate, not worth saving. Their ambition for power is matched only by their seemingly unlimited aptitude for deceit, disloyalty and manipulation. And they have allies.
Charles and David Koch are ultra-right multi-billionaire brothers and industrialists/capitalists with a consistent record of being the worst polluters in the world – and the biggest haters of all things liberal or progressive, especially President Obama. This evil duo has backed a group, GenOpp, (Generation Opportunity)that encourages young people to not buy insurance under the ACA. They claim that even after the young and uninsured pay the “relatively small penalty” (for not having insurance) of $95 dollars, they will save money and not have to participate in “creepy government sponsored health care.” What GenOpp does NOT tell you is that under the least expensive ($495 per year) of the opted-out private insurance plans, plus the $95 penalty, it will cost you $585 in 2014, PLUS the annual deductable of $10,000! Which means, of course, that your cheap, non-regulated, non-Obamacare insurance costs you, out of your pocket, for every doctor’s appointment, trip to the emergency room, hospital stay, prescription, etc. until you have paid $10,000! Each year. (And then the penalty goes from $95 per year to $1185 in 2016!)
David Koch makes misty-eyed speeches and waxes on about the American Cancer Society and the evils of “socialized medicine” under Obamacare, and he can well afford to do so. Because when his very expert team of doctors diagnosed his prostate cancer several years ago he could-and did-get the best treatment medicine has to offer. He could afford that, even if he’d had no insurance whatsoever. But chances are, if you work for one of the Koch brothers’ many companies, or for Wal-Mart, or for any small, medium, or large privately owned corporations, that will not be the kind of medical coverage you will receive.
Why not? Because it is in their “best interests”—their “bottom lines” NOT to offer you the kind of coverage they provide for themselves because it COSTS THEM MORE MONEY. Do you really believe that either Alice or Christy Walton cares whether you can afford to have your mastectomy and treatment performed at the Cleveland clinic or Sloane-Kettering or Johns-Hopkins? Or even if it was successful? Your illness, surgery, treatment, and medications are simply part of a bottom-line deficit, a nuisance, more cost of doing business. But your reliance on them and your fear of not having insurance keeps you ready and willing to work for them, and it keeps you “in your place”. And if there were any doubt about your true value to such corporations, just remember that WalMart , for years, secretly bought life insurance policies on about 350,000 of their own employees nationwide, and collected on those policies when those people died, without ever having notified the employee or his/her family. The policies were for $50,000 – $80,000 and were taken out on any employee from 18-70 who participated in Walmart’s “private” health plan. And although Walmart stopped taking out the policies in 1995, they continued collecting the money on employees and ex-employees who passed away, until public exposure caused them to cancel the policies altogether in 2000. So much for "privacy" in private insurance plans.
So when Republicans like Sarah Palin and Michelle Baughman decry “government run health care” and the terrifying “death panels” and “medical decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats”, ask yourself who makes those decisions for you now? Every health care decision regarding the health of the people in our story was made between the doctors and patients. And nearly every one of those decisions was questioned, denied, fought for, and won or lost due to some private- insurance bureaucrat in some office deciding what would be allowed and what would not.
So what’s the difference? As it stands, the difference is that under the Affordable Care Act, health care decisions will not be made based on what is PROFITABLE for the insurance company; instead, those decisions are made based on what is important to your health. Our hero, and the hundreds or thousands like him will not be left to flounder in the open air, unable to buy health insurance because he had a history, a pre-existing condition. It means that people who have an annoying cough, or rash, or fever through the holiday season like he did will not fear having to make an appointment with a doctor, and will be more likely catch a devastating illness early enough to get life-saving treatment. It means that when a child is injured on a playground, the first concern a mother may have will be the welfare of the child, and not whether or not she can afford a trip to the emergency room. It means that your doctor—the one YOU choose—can feel comfortable treating you, and can treat you with respect and dignity because he is concerned about your health and not about whether or not he will get paid for your visit.