It’s mid-April, 2010 and Obama has gotten at least a version of healthcare reform signed into law and I’ve finally begun seeing over this past weekend bits and pieces of what it actually contains. Surprisingly, there are no Death Panels, which I was kinda secretly hoping to apply for a job on (there’s a lot of people on my list, you see). Bummer. But even without them, Republicans are still sore and say Obama’s a Socialist for forcing health down our throats.
But thanks to Barack Obama’s “Socialism”, I find I might actually be able to afford coverage soon for my wife and myself. Can you imagine such a thing? Now, we’re in pretty good shape… good blood pressure (unless of course my wife is bitching at me…again.) and a perfect BMI. No diabetes, no alcohol. My wife has similar stats.
We smoke, but are trying to quit. But statistically smokers are good for the system. Forty or so years of paying thousands of dollars in extra tobacco fees, then at around sixty five or so we get lung cancer and die quickly. We don’t linger and burden the system like say, a diabetic would. We just kick off and all the FICA and Social Security money we paid for forty five years just ends up in the system. We’re a pretty good deal, even if we do smell like an ashtray.
Yet the Republican Party says I shouldn’t be able to get health insurance, even though I am in no way a burden on the system; quite the opposite, especially in this Recession, I’m one of the contributors to it. I’ve never taken unemployment, Welfare or Food Stamps, but I shouldn’t have an affordable health plan. And it’s not just because I’m a Democrat- that I could understand- but most independent construction workers such as myself are actually Republicans and the GOP doesn’t want them to have it either.
I own a small business, but I’m in the process of selling it off and moving to California. We’re building a small organic farm and a new house. So, over a two or three years we’ll be paying a couple of states and the Feds a bunch of capital gains taxes, building permit fees, etc. and buying tons of building materials and large appliances. In short, we’re contributing to the system big time.
But we can’t afford health insurance. We had it in 2003 for a year. Blue Cross charged us $3,750.00 apiece, or $7,500.00. Our plan was to get insurance, then a complete physical. Then we complain about various illness we didn’t have (Gee Doc, my liver hurts”) and have some extra tests done. If we found something was wrong we’d keep the insurance. If not, we’d drop it and wait another five years and do it again.
After the year, we calculated what we would’ve paid for the various tests and appointments, including an MRI we paid for ourselves because it was a pre-existing condition- total cost, about $5,000.00. So Blue Cross cost us 35% more than if we had just paid for it ourselves, lots more if you deduct the MRI. Of course, if something was indeed wrong with one us, it would’ve been worth it. But to keep insurance on a regular basis over ten years would’ve cost $75,000.00, very nearly two years worth of my income. I don’t make enough to spend 20% of my income for health insurance.
I don’t want free healthcare, mind you, and I don’t even really want extensive healthcare. I’d love one complete physical with perhaps two fifteen minute checkup visits and maybe a blood test a flu shot a year for my wife and myself…maybe two grand worth of stuff. That would be about 1% of my income and I’d pay for it in premiums. Then I’d pay another 1% as ‘insurance’, whether I’m sick or not. For any other doctor visits I’d be happy to do a co-pay…right now, a self-pay visit costs me about $70.00; I’d be happy to pay for half.
But if I got hurt or really sick, I’d need help. Ten years ago I had a 3 hour surgery with an overnight hospital stay. I was out before breakfast. I had two fifteen minute return checkups as well…total cost- $20,000.00. At the time I was pulling down 30K a year, but I also couldn’t work for nearly nine months because of it. Luckily, I made it clear before I went in that there was no way in hell I could ever pay for it, so since I was dying and all the hospital did me as a “Clinic Patient”, a degrading category that means you don’t get breakfast and when you go in for a follow-up you wait with the homeless and junkies for as many hours as they want for your turn. Believe me, I was grateful for it.
The thing is, if I had healthcare at the time, I would’ve gone to the doctor months earlier for what I had thought was only a bad ear ache and been given some antibiotics and would have never needed an operation at all. Instead, I waited till I almost died…they told me two weeks more and it would’ve been too late. But when you have no insurance, you just don’t go to a doctor and instead hope you’ll get better.
Republicans say people will game the system and go to a doctor every time they sneeze if they had healthcare. Maybe some would; there are always a few. Rich people game the system all time too. But those people are already gaming the system by using emergency rooms and stuff at an enormous cost to everyone. If someone had an affordable health plan with say, a $75.00 dollar ER co-pay, they’d probably wait to make a $35.00 doctor’s appointment unless it really wasan emergency, saving the system perhaps a grand a pop. ER visits are pricey.
But back to my $20,000 surgery. Since then, I’ve been healthy, except for some minor injuries. If my wife and I had been paying an extra grand a year into the system since then for insurance, I’d be halfway square on the bill by now. Better still, I would have never waited so long and the system would’ve been ahead thirty grand- the cost of the surgery plus my 10K in insurance payments. So from a cost/benefit aspect, in this case health insurance would have made far more than it cost.
Republicans are supposed to be good at business stuff. Actually, while they’re usually good at accumulating personal wealth, they don’t seem to ever understand the bigger, long term picture. I guess it takes a Socialist like Obama to make Capitalism work.