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Affordable Health Care? Dream On!˜

One of the greatest problems with the two-party system is that it’s adversarial by nature. Polarization is unavoidable. Republicans have embraced this flaw with gusto: they have abandoned their formerly conservative fortifications and planted their flag in outer space. Democrats, predictably, have abandoned their formerly liberal position in an effort not to be seen as extreme, and rushed to take over the former Republican stronghold and relabel it “moderate”, while Republicans continue to smear them with the “extremist liberal” brush. Concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACH du lieber), Republicans, true to form, are screeching about “death panels” and “job killing”. The Party of Jesus obsessed about death – no surprise there.

A desolate hospital hallway

Do more people have access to affordable healthcare? (Photo: Adrian Boliston / Flickr)

Democrats, meanwhile, by default are left with only one strategy: defend this monster. “Folks can afford health coverage now who could never afford it before.” So say the (formerly liberal) pundits. But, is it true? Is Obamacare affordable, and for whom?

I obtained coverage under the “Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan” (PCIP) last October. At that time, my bank account had a balance of  $16,000.00, give or take. Today, it’s less than half that, and the bills are still pouring in. Monthly premiums take $347.00, that’s almost four g’s/year, with a $2,750.00 deductible. “Preventive care” is free – but in practice, this is preventive care: “Hi, doc. How ya doin’?”  “Fine, just fine. And you?”  “Me, too, doc, I’m just fine, too.” That’s it. That’s “preventive care”. And, to be fair, it is free. But, should you be foolish enough to add, “…but my neck hurts every time I write a check” – that’s a bridge too far. That requires a diagnosis, and now you pay, until your deductible is satisfied. While you are paying down your deductible, coverage is paltry, miserly even. I was responsible for virtually all charges, as a blizzard of “explanation of benefits” letters cruelly advised me.

I went in for some tests in order to determine the status of my pre-existing condition, they did some biopsies and genetic work. Concerned about cost, I questioned my doctor about the charges. “I won’t know until after the insurance company gets back to me.” I called PCIP. “We can’t say until we get the bill from your provider.” The process is completely opaque, and nonstandardized. Charges from one “provider” to another can appear to come from different parallel universes. One “procedure” that was prescribed, I insisted on a quote beforehand, and paid it at the time of the service. Since then, I have received bills amounting to more than four times the amount I paid, for that very procedure! Outraged, I called the provider last week, still haven’t heard back after five business days. I called PCIP – the folks there are terrific, really, but they are just as trapped in the system as its “primary victims” – us. I was told, “It’s a vicious circle. Providers have up to two years to submit charges on any given service. Keep a careful record of all your disbursements.” –In case of what? A lawsuit? How am I going to afford a lawyer? We have the too-big-to-fail banksters for a model. The Big Sick insurance giants will come up with increasingly complex instruments to fleece subscribers, and government regulators, underfunded, thwarted and hampered by the same process that defanged the financial regulators, will be steamrolled.

Here’s the gist: AHC may be affordable to some. It will certainly prevent financial ruin, for the well-to-do, due to catastrophic illness events. Subscribers will be protected from hundreds of thousands of dollars of charges. But, for the people who really need the coverage, for the majority of those who will sign up for the various plans, for us, this is not coverage, but a financial death sentence. Most of us are already under water, and an additional financial burden of ten thousand dollars or so could drown us. And here is where you will find the death panels, or the “Individual Mandeath” panels: folks self-administering intra-cranial lead injections to keep their entire families from ruin. Too dramatic? Wait and see.

I just got another $1,200 or so in bills this week, for services rendered in April! I’m afraid for the future, thanks to Affordable Health Care, and that, friends, is not good for my health. Six years ago, I had what I call real  coverage, through insurance my ex had per her employer. Emergency appendectomy – no problem. No deductible. $23,000+ in charges. My copay? Four hundred bucks! Now, that’s what I call coverage. But that kind of coverage is a thing of the past in today’s privatized, financialized world. There will be no change until We The People get so fed up that we decide to seize the reins. The only difference between Romney and Obama is, Romney will get us there faster.

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