Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Obamacare Redux

So here I am again, a year later, once again dealing with the complexities that make up the Affordable Care Act. And once again, I’m totally PO’d.

For those who came in late: Last year this time I signed up for government-mandated health insurance through the government’s marketplace, which offers discounts for those of us with low incomes due to our jobs going overseas. And I did get coverage, at a very cheap price. I never needed to use it, but I had it. Thank you, taxpayers of America. I figured I’d be good for however long this ripoff ran.

Two things got in the way of my happiness. One, my insurance company isn’t offering my particular coverage next year, so I have to sign up for something else. No prob. I picked up a freelance job this year, but my income should still be low enough to qualify me for assistance.

That’s when I hit problem #2: my upcoming birthday. The big 6-0 is coming my way in January, and with it a whole new slew of government classifications. For starters, because of my age and low income, I might qualify for Medicaid, at small or maybe even no cost. Right now I’m waiting to hear back from the state to find out if I do.

I’d better hope I do. Because my income level is too low to qualify me for financial help through the marketplace.

Yes, you heard that right. If you make above a certain amount you don’t get any assistance. But if you make below a certain amount, you also don’t get any assistance. Which means if I don’t qualify for Medicaid I still have to have coverage because the government says so and they’ll fine me if I don’t. Only now I’ll have to pay full price for it, which will wipe me out financially in short order. The least expensive plan available to me would run at least $500-$600 a month, which effectively cancels out the income from my freelance job. That still leaves me to deal with my other expenses through my ever-dwindling savings.

Welcome to the world of Affordable Health Care.

I’ve been saying this since the law went into effect. The Affordable Care Act did not make health insurance affordable. It did not lower prices on either insurance or medical care. It did not standardize prices for medical procedures or deal with insurance fraud or hospital overcharging. It forced Americans to buy health insurance or get taxed if they didn’t. That’s it. It took the onus of paying for the uninsured’s health care off the hospitals and insurance companies and dumped it on the backs of the voters. It’s robbing Taxpayer Peter to pay the costs of insuring Taxpayer Paul. Last year I was Paul. That was before I turned 60. I’m about to become Peter, and Peter doesn’t have that much in the bank.

And before you start telling me to get a job, I’ve been looking. It’s not that easy to find full-time employment that offers a living wage and medical coverage once you’re over 50. I can apply to twenty jobs a day and it’s not going to help unless one of them actually hires me.

I spoke elsewhere of a former co-worker of mine who lost her job last year. She was abruptly laid off after working as a newspaper layout/ad designer at the same place for over twelve years. She thinks she was let go because her salary was higher than those of the two girls they kept, both of whom had been there half as long. I suspect the cost of health care might also have factored into it. My co-worker’s over 50 now. The price of her coverage would be higher than that for the 30somethings still working there. Who may not need coverage at all because they’re married, and might be covered by their husbands’ programs. Even more money left in the boss’s pocket.

I haven’t seen her since then. I hope she found another job, because she’s in the same boat I am: single, over 50, and expensive. She has training, skills and years of experience, but not in any job that couldn’t be done just as well by somebody half her age for less money. Which is what employers in the current economy are looking for.

I kid you not. I was cruising want ads and found what I believe was my old newspaper editor job. The description and location fit. Except the ad specifically stated, “Recent college graduates encouraged to apply. Lack of experience isn’t a problem.” In short, they wanted young and cheap. I clicked on the “Apply Now” button anyway, only to discover the job had already been filled. A second writing job, one I’d applied to way back when and could now do in my sleep, also ran an ad. Same thing: Over here, recent grads, this is the job for you. Experience not necessary. I did apply to that one. Never heard back.

A couple months back I applied for a freelance proofreading position with an online publisher. Just got the “no” yesterday. They recently fired one of their acquiring editors so they’re kind of in flux right now.

Meanwhile, my neighbors across the street hit a snag of their own last year. They’re in their 60s, retired, debt-free. Then the husband had a stroke. We live a mile from the local hospital. Cost for an ambulance to make a two-mile trip: $1000. Then he had to be airlifted to a better hospital because the local one couldn’t treat him. Cost for the helicopter ride: $27,000. That’s not even counting the cost of treatment, rehab and hospital stay. His wife, who has back and hip problems, took a pizza delivery job to help with the bills. She says they’re so deep in debt now they’ll never get out. And they did have health insurance.

So tell me, how is that “affordable”? Why didn’t Obama’s “health care reform” reform any of that?

I don’t even know how much I’m going to earn next year. I’m a writer. I send stuff out and three to six months later I get paid. I could always tell the insurance marketplace my income is whatever it needs to be in order for me to get government assistance. Who knows, I could even be right.

Otherwise, it looks like my most affordable plan for next year will be to not buy insurance, take my chances with the tax penalty (which has also gone up since the ACA’s inception; it looks to run $600-$700 next year), and hope I don’t get sick in 2016.

Well, this’ll all be over soon. I predict the Affordable Care Act will be abruptly repealed, either right before or right after the November presidential election. Obama may even kill it himself. Why not? It will have served its purpose of pouring money into his administration’s coffers and enriching the insurance companies. Let the next President figure out how to squeeze more bucks out of impoverished Americans.

Me? I’m voting for Trump. He’s got enough money he can buy health insurance for everybody. And if his mouth gets us blown up in a war with somebody, then we won’t need health insurance. I guess that’s the best win we could hope for.

No comments:

Post a Comment