This commentary first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When I was a kid, Halloween was the day we gave thanks for attending Catholic school. Because the day after is All Saint’s Day in church liturgy, we were off for a holy day of obligation while our public-school counterparts attended classes as usual after a night of trick or treating. (Suckers.)
Of course, back then Halloween was the province of children. By the time you were old enough for junior high, you were expected to hang up your costume and act your age. You might escort younger siblings around the neighborhood or help your parents hand out candy, but your days of door to door marauding were over.
Today, all that has changed. Reflecting the fashionable “All Mardi Gras – No Lent” approach to life, church attendance has dwindled while Halloween has morphed into a major commercial holiday celebrated by people of all ages. Fewer people worship on All Saints’ but far more party on its eve.
From a societal perspective, the problem with our collective Peter Pan pledge to never grow up is that we’re fast running out of adults to provide the treats. This, I suspect, is the emergent problem with Obamacare.
The disastrous first effort to fully implement the Affordable Care Act — often referred to as the plan’s “roll-out” — was mitigated by a strange miscegenation of Republican stupidity and Democratic incompetence.
The Republicans, you’ll recall, recently decided to shut down the government. The last time they tried that trick, they were treated to the re-election of Bill Clinton. Reluctant to learn from experience, they decided to stick their hand back in the fire to see if it was still hot. Not surprisingly, they again got burnt.
Ironically, the casus belli for the GOP stunt was the effort to de-fund Obamacare. Not only did they fail in that endeavor but the outrage they engendered managed to divert public attention from the shocking ineptitude displayed by the administration during the program’s initiation.
Having spent three years and hundreds of millions of dollars in preparation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled an enrollment website on Oct. 1 that people found difficult to use because it didn’t work. Luckily for the Dems, most people were too busy cursing Republicans to take much notice.
Eventually, of course, the government resumed full operations and public attention shifted to deficiencies in the Obamacare roll-out. The computer problems actually may have provided a hidden benefit for Democrats by delaying access to the plan. It seems the hardy souls who negotiated the hurdles of the website and got to the substance of the program often didn’t like what they found there.
I heard two different case histories reported as examples of the challenges of implementing the new venture. Both are admittedly anecdotal and thus not necessarily representative of the experience of others. Consider them parables illustrating the tricks and treats of health-care reform.
CNN interviewed a woman who’d spent three weeks trying to enroll on-line. She attempted to log in at midnight when she hoped most of her fellow citizens would be asleep; she tried during morning and evening rush hours when she thought most people would be commuting.
It was never explained why she didn’t enroll by phone but she did ultimately succeed in buying health insurance through the website for herself and her daughter. This victory was more than symbolic because both women suffered from pre-existing medical conditions that had previously precluded private insurance and their medical bills had driven their household into bankruptcy. For her, Obamacare — its shortcomings notwithstanding — represented salvation. She advises that, with her worries about medical bills allayed, she can now sleep at night.
CBS reported the story of a 56-year-old Florida woman who had a less happy ending. She currently has health insurance that she feels is adequate to her needs. Her contribution for the coverage is $54 a month.
She thought the president had guaranteed that persons who were happy with their insurance could keep it. Now, she learns that her satisfaction is not enough — the president has to like her policy as well.
Her insurer recently notified her that the current policy doesn’t satisfy the criteria of Obamacare. Among its deficiencies is its failure to provide birth control and maternity benefits. Effective Jan. 1, her monthly premiums will increase to $591 for better coverage.
That’s an annual increase of $6,444 — but the post-menopausal woman will have access to free contraceptives and full pregnancy care. She understands that she may be eligible for some kind of tax credit but states she can’t afford the extra $537 a month to continue coverage in the meantime.
With the control of the Congress at stake, you’ll hear a lot stories like these during the coming off-year election season. It is estimated that about 15 percent of Americans lack adequate health-care coverage without Obamacare. But that leaves 85 percent of the population who are presently fairly comfortable without it.
Most of the insured receive coverage through their employers. Paradoxically, the new law charges employers a head tax for each employee and employee dependant they cover. The government will thus penalize the businesses that provide most of the nation’s health care for doing so. Proceeds from the tax will be used to offset the increased cost of insuring applicants with pre-existing medical conditions.
The employer will then be responsible for insuring himself, his family, his employees, their families and for paying a bonus to insurance companies for selling their product to people they don’t want to cover in the first place. Sounds fair to me…
Democrats have about a year to convince insured Americans that Obamacare provides better treatment than they receive at present. All things considered, that sales job could be a tricky proposition.