As the inevitable implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, comes around this October, there is one thing that is very clear: Republicans and Democrats are going to keep saying entirely different things about it and confusing everybody. Yes sir, just as American democracy was at its "best" when The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, American democracy continues to shine as both sides hurl out misinformation, insults and complete opposite "truths" as we all try to understand what the hell they're talking about. So, I've gone ahead and done some heavy lifting to try and figure out what the fuck is going on myself, and I'd like to share some of the things I've found out that I have no idea whether or not they are true.
Of course, let me preface all of this by emphasizing that I no longer have health insurance myself. I used to have it under my family's plan until I was 26, and then had expensive student health insurance through Columbia University since I was required to have it as a student there. In fact, when I once used my student health insurance to go see a doctor, I did so off campus in my home state of Ohio, which, since I didn't get a referral from Columbia's health office before I went, ended up costing me the full payment. Isn't that neat?! So now I just live without health insurance, hoping I don't get catastrophically sick. I always wash my hands regularly/vigorously when I come into contact with gross things, and so far I'm doing okay, though I'm knocking on wood very hard right now.
I also should mention that we all need to make a better effort to understand how complex the health insurance issue is in this country. We should understand that health care first became a "benefit" when President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze nationwide wages in the 1930s and employers saw it as a way to hire good employees without offering higher pay. We also need to understand the special treatment health insurers have had for years, going back to 1945's McCarran-Ferguson Act, which allows the health insurance industry to be exempt from federal anti-trust laws that all other industries in the U.S. are subject to. So it really is a super convoluted issue, and the misinformation coming from both sides sure as hell doesn't help. Nonetheless, here we go:
Where the Democrats are Right: The Democrats are right on several good things Obamacare does - it will allow for millions of Americans to afford cheaper health care coverage when they otherwise wouldn't have been able to do so. Obamacare is also good because it requires health insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions and spend 80 cents out of every dollar of their profits on actually providing health care. You know, nice humanitarian things for them to do that you'd think you wouldn't need a law to make them do. There are other small victories in there as well, but really those are the main good things the Democrats have been championing, I think.
Where the Democrats are Wrong: The Democrats are wrong on praising how much Obamacare will help everyone, as there are certainly millions of Americans who are going to be hurt by the legislation, a point which is outlined more below. For starters, Obamacare now mandates that you have to have health insurance, which is just going to bring in more money for health insurance companies, which is frankly exactly what they wanted. In fact, Congress and the health insurance industry wrote Obamacare hand-in-hand, and proof of this is in one of the Democrats' most-dumbly-hyped victories - the new rule saying young people can now stay on their parents' insurance plans until they're 26. Oh, joy!! Really?! Wow!! How nice of you guys to let me have another year of health coverage, instead of just letting me stay on my parents' plan forever like I intended to do with their cellphone plan. Thanks guys!!
Where the Republicans are Right: As little as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) actually said in his 20-plus-hour non-filibuster this week, he did read letters from real people who will actually be hurt by Obamacare. We have to understand there are millions of people, sick and healthy, who are going to see increased prices for coverage, medicines and the like. Also, small and large businesses really are going to lose money because of higher insurance prices, and will likely start cutting corners to ensure they don't have to insure their part-time and full-time employees. Also, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has pointed out, it's very odd that Obamacare allows for federal government employees to opt out and be exempt from the new health care laws. People like, oh, I don't know, President Obama himself. I'll also throw out there that many in the libertarian wing of the Republican Party are correct that since government got more involved with health care, affordability and regulations have certainly gotten out of whack and taken health care further from its roots of doctors helping people because it's what they want to do for a living. But...
Where the Republicans are Totally Fucking Wrong is when they keep saying they would fix the health care problem in our country differently. Bullshit. The fact is they never did and probably never would. From killing health care reform in the '90s when we were still a somewhat not-in-as-much-debt nation, to the constantly-changing campaign promises in 2012 to "Repeal and Replace Obamacare", Republicans never tried to fix health care ever so Obama and the Democrats were like, "Fuck it, we'll do it our way." When Republicans did have control of Congress and the White House, they started wars, gave tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and put our country into deeper debt. And then they had the nerve to say the "market" would fix health care, when the market hasn't and we're the only Western nation that spends shitloads on our health care with poor results. Suck my balls, Republicans. Now I need health insurance because you all make me sick. The real reason for Republicans' non-action is likely the same reason Democrats barely got health care reform right - both parties are getting lobbying money to do nothing about the status quo and not interrupt all those sweet, sweet health care gravy trains.
And overall, that is the largest problem with Obamacare - it' still a very corporate piece of legislation, and of course by legislation, I mean poop. As Matt Taibbi has so correctly pointed out in his book Griftopia, health insurers, big pharmaceutical companies and health care providers all basically created this bill with Congress and fought for the things they needed to still make billions of dollars every year while not doing a damn thing to actually make people healthier. Obamacare is a farce of socialized medicine - artificially pitting the left against the right - that still leaves the insurance companies in control of Americans' access to health care, if not more so. There are no new rules that address why health insurers are exempt from federal anti-trust laws and nothing that puts health care back into the hands of the doctors who actually understand it. It's just another ruse from a billion dollar industry that is a con middleman standing between people and a service they so desperately need. Our world would be better if those billions of dollars that went to irrelevant insurance salesmen went directly to hospitals and health care clinics in our country instead - doctors would likely still be well-paid and coverage would be cheaper. In fact, why do we bother having an insurance industry at all? Can't we just boycott it? Isn't there a better creative solution we can come up with? Or are we just going to take it - doing so again with Obamacare as the next step - living in a system that is nothing like those in countries where socialized medicine has apparently worked? Health care really is an issue in the U.S. where both the free market and government have utterly failed.
Moving forward, there is one thing that's for sure: for the next few months, as the potential clusterfuck begins to be implemented, there is certainly going to be more mud slinging between both sides about who has fucked up health care more for everybody and who is doing the harder fucking. It's going to get messy, but I guess that's America. Get ready to wash your hands.