So, as the impacts of the ACA continue their gradual but inexorable dissemination throughout all 50 American states - much of it accomplished via simple word of mouth - I've been reading with interest the recent flurry of diaries here on DK about some of your experiences explaining and/or recommending so-called "Obamacare" to your red state friends and family members. I have one such vignette of my own to share:
I have a longtime friend who lives in Idaho (I live in NYC). We'll call him "Mack". Mack is a good guy, although we have only a limited number of things in common (he's living the suburban dream with a wife, children & mortgage, while I'm the typical urbanite). I would characterize Mack as a garden-variety low-information conservative: not a fire-breathing Tea Party nimrod. Just a guy who isn't very sophisticated, watches way too much FOX News, and whose political comfort zone is littered with all the standard-issue conservative shibboleths and canards (i.e. 'Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline, liberty & family values'; 'Democrats are the party of fiscal irresponsibility, government overreach & permissiveness', etc.). You know the type.
More on the other side of the Idaho sweet potato curly fry...
Well, after years of working at a thankless sales job for a local used car dealership, i.e. being underpaid, disrespected & abused, Mack decided late last year to pursue a more entrepreneurial path as a sales agent in the insurance industry: more freedom, more long-term earning potential...but also more insecurity, more instability.
When we spoke in January, Mack had been at it for a couple of months, and was feeling discouraged. In particular, he was concerned about having lost the healthcare coverage that his wage job had provided (though it wasn't that good a policy), especially because Mack has a pre-existing medical condition (high blood pressure). Although his wife's job provides healthcare coverage, her job is not very secure. And the benefits don't adequately cover their entire family anyway.
I asked Mack what his alternatives might be, and had he thought the matter through? "I don't know", he said. "I don't think there are any good alternatives."
I took a deep breath, preparing myself mentally for the dialogue that was about to ensue: "Have you considered your options under the ACA?", I asked.
"The what?", Mack replied.
"You would probably know it as "Obamacare", I responded. "Have you not at least gone to the Healthcare.gov website, to see what's available for you?"
"Oh no", he said. "I don't believe in that stuff."
"Believe in what stuff?", I demanded. "Do you even know what the ACA is?"
"Well...no. I guess. I'm not really sure," said Mack. "I just heard it was socialized medicine; a government takeover of healthcare."
"Mack, it is no such thing," I told him. "It is a market-based healthcare reform that gives the insurance industry access to a huge new pool of guaranteed customers - in return for them doing certain basic things for the benefit of their policyholders that they should have been doing all along. It prevents them from denying coverage to you, just because you have a pre-existing condition. It prevents them from cancelling your policy when you get sick or injured - just because they don't feel like paying what they owe you. And it compels them to devote at least 80 percent of revenues they receive from customer premiums to paying actual benefits - so they'll always have sufficient reserves to meet their responsibilities to their customers. Things like that,", I said.
"Really?", he replied, his voice brightening as he began to take interest.
"Absolutely", I said. "In fact, because the new regulations establish basic ground rules, and require the insurance companies to actually compete with one another for your business, policy prices are already becoming much more affordable - just the way a market is supposed to work (but frequently doesn't). So it's really more of a free market than the mess we had before. And definitely more fair."
At this point, I had Mack's complete attention. He wasn't saying much. But he was taking in every word - I could tell.
"To tell you the truth, it's really tailor-made for people who are in your position, Mack. Folks who are changing careers or starting a new business, so they no longer have access to the employer-based coverage they used to have. And since Karen is the only one in the family who's bringing in an income right now, while you're still building your business, I'll bet you could qualify for a pretty hefty subsidy. You might be shocked to see how little you need to pay. Could be just the thing to make sure that you & Karen & the girls stay protected," I told him.
"Maybe you're right", Mack said. "Maybe I should look into it."
"Maybe you should," I shot back. "Since your good governor hasn't seen fit to develop an Idaho state exchange, you'll have to use the federal site at HealthCare.gov. And if you don't want to futz around on the website, just give 'em a call at their toll-free number, and ask them some questions. Worst-case scenario is maybe you spend 20-30 minutes on the phone. Considering what you & your family stand to gain, where's the downside?", I asked.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll do it, Mike. I'll give 'em a call and check it out. Hey, thanks for the information!"
"No problem", I said. "I hope it works for you."
* * * * *
That was probably 10 weeks ago, maybe longer. I haven't spoken with my friend Mack since that day, since he has a lot on his plate, and I wanted to give him some space. Naturally I hope he made the call. I hope he got a dream deal on excellent new healthcare coverage for his family. And I hope he's told some of his Idaho friends & neighbors about his experience since then.
Given the fact that Idaho has, as of this day, just about reached the entire 100% of its projected enrollment numbers, per CBO calculations just prior to the program launch last October, I'd also like to think that maybe I had something to do with it...albeit in my own, very limited way.
Wealthy right-wingers can afford to put their ideology ahead of their own needs - because they hardly have any unfulfilled needs (so they put their ideology ahead of other peoples' needs). The remainder of us don't have that luxury - including ordinary, run-of-the-mill, mainstream conservatives - most of whom still have no idea how dear a price they're being made to pay, just to enable GOP/TP politicians and the billionaire robber barons who support them, to continue spinning a self-serving, hubris-filled fairy tale. If by my conversation with Mack, I was able to strike even one solid blow against any of the lies, the corruption, and the sleaze, then it was time & energy well spent.