Single Payer Blues

For the last 15-20 years, my point of view has steadily remained left-of-center on a large majority of issues facing our country. Generally speaking, my perspective expanded alongside my life experience. This was not an accident. At that time, I made a conscious effort to analyze my own thoughts and opinions in an unfiltered manner. This was not easy for me, I was used to forming opinions through the prism of others. The concept of health and health care was an area that I deeply analyzed. Is it a right? Is it a privilege? In fact, my personal experience with our health care system is one of the major reasons why I became more vocally progressive over the years.

First and foremost, the Health Care/Health Insurance Industrial Complex, what I refer to as the Protection Racket, should be the primary subject of our frustration as a nation. It is designed to make a profit regardless of service or situation. The Health Care/Health Insurance Industrial Complex (AKA The Protection Racket) uses he concept of “care” as a weapon. As the consumer, we are forced to pay whatever costs they arbitrarily charge us. Also, as consumers of this protection service, we are simply unable or understandably reluctant to comparison shop. When it comes to personal health, preventive care doesn’t have as big of a profit margin. If it did, preventative care would be covered more often. The industry has gotten away with all of this because money trumps morality every time – even in life and death.

I don’t have a problem with the ACA mandate since a single payer option does not exist. I use the same logic behind my support for the auto insurance mandate. Which, interestingly enough, didn’t generate nearly the attention this insurance mandate has. Only the extreme libertarians were upset about having to wear a seat belt and buy auto insurance. The general public did not view it as an intolerable infringement of their rights. After all, someone has to pay the bill. We all pay it if there is no insurance coverage. Most Americans viewed it as common sense, not socialism.

The Affordable Care Act follows a model originally proposed by the Republicans in the 90’s. It’s also modeled after the system implemented by Mitt Romney for Massachusetts. The ACA is already starting to show positive results (including lower rates) in the states where Republican Governors are not standing in the way for political reasons.

Thankfully, I am now part of the 95% of Americans that get a decent (but not cheap) plan through my employer. That was not the case for most of my entire adult life. In those years, I WISHED there was something like Obamacare.

For many years I was a self-employed graphic designer/art director. When searching for my own benefits, I was told that I needed to hire someone. They said I needed to hire an employee in order to get insurance for myself. As if that was an option? Therefore, I had to buy numerous non-renewable six month temporary plans on a regular basis just to maintain coverage so nothing would be pre-existing. However, in spite of these efforts, my sleep apnea was eventually called a pre-existing condition. The insurance company made this decision on their own, even though I had insurance when it was diagnosed over 15 years ago. Not only that, I did not realize it had been changed to a pre-existing condition until after spending the night in the sleep disorder clinic at the hospital. I would not have their recommended second sleep study if I knew I was paying for it entirely out of pocket.

This was my life when I was a self-employed graphic designer/art director from 1996-2009. I was using my skills as an independent contractor. I was the entrepreneur – the rugged individualist. A self-employed man. Exactly what our culture likes to wax poetic about. This way of life sounds great, until you have to see a doctor. In these years, 1996-2009, I never saw the same doctor twice. The only insurance plans I could afford were junk plans that were not even worth their somewhat affordable cost. The only thing available to me was what is commonly called Emergency Room Insurance. Cheap insurance with a massive deductible. That’s the bullshit insurance made illegal by the Affordable Care Act. That is the insurance that I had to get because it was the only option I had, unless I wanted to be uninsured and one hospital visit away from bankruptcy. That’s why I say I wished there was something like Obamacare (ACA) back then when I really needed it.

When I moved to Wisconsin from Illinois in 2005 I was denied insurance. Fortunately I was able to join a state run insurance plan for people that had pre-existing conditions or no employer based insurance. Yes, a state run plan! It was still the same bullshit emergency room insurance, but it was better than nothing because at this time I was getting turned down by Humana and other billion dollar insurance companies. An insurance company employee was looking at a chart and determining if I deserved coverage or not based upon statistics. It didn’t matter that I had already payed who knows how much money into this protection racket.

Then in 2006 I moved to Georgia. Georgia did not have a state wide plan for people in my situation. I had to write letters explaining how I have treated my sleep apnea for almost 15 years, blah, blah, blah. With the help of my auto insurance agent, I was finally approved. Approved to pay once again out the ass and basically out of pocket for everything. All of this was just for the same old bullshit (now made illegal) junk insurance with a massive deductible.

In 2009, I was hired as a full time member of the faculty and now have employer based insurance again. For the first time since 1996, I have a regular doctor. This is also important now more than ever, because in recent years it seems like I’m at the pharmacy on a regular basis. If it’s not to renew my hypothyroid pill prescription, it’s for something else. I know I can look forward to more and more of this over the years because we age in only one direction, fast forward.

For 13 years, no matter what I needed or avoided getting done, I had to pay out of pocket because I was never able to meet my deductible. Now I’ll actually be able to afford to upgrade my CPAP machine (for sleep apnea). Mine is almost 10 years old. That simply was not affordable before with my previous plans. Also, I’ll be able to take more preventive measures, things that were financially out of the question before. No one should underestimate the peace of mind that can come with the ability to take preventative measures. We have been trained to brush aside what may prevent a serious health issue because the for profit system will likely not cover something until it becomes a serious health issue.

My previous insurance plans are the exact insurance plans that are now illegal. The ACA made them illegal because they were bad policies. Basically, the only way to meet the deductible was to be admitted to the hospital. Just think of a junk insurance plan as a junk bond and you’ll see how this entire debate is somewhat ridiculous. Before the ACA was enacted, no politician ran to the defense of people like me, the 5% of the population stuck with this pile of junk as their best option. Now conservatives are concerned?

That’s why all this talk about freedoms being taken away, etc. are way off base. More than anything else, our employer based health care TAKES AWAY freedom. For example, how often do people stay with a job or career they don’t like. They’re completely unsatisfied but have to stay because they have dependents on their employer provided health care plan. Regardless of the specific cost, the plans are too expensive but absolutely essential. It makes you fear changing jobs even though you are unsatisfied. It happens all the time. That’s not what I consider freedom.

A single payer system is what we need. A single payer solves the problem as a whole much better than anything else. It preserves your freedom too. We’ve had the single payer blues for decades and I’ve been telling people about it for years.

One thought on “Single Payer Blues

  1. Each of us has our own medical journey and our own (bad) experience with The Protection Racket. Currently, I am unemployed and the monthly costs of COBRA are nearly double the amount I receive in unemployment insurance.

    Unfortunately, the cost of Obamacare is higher for me than COBRA because the ACA subsidy calculation looks at your income over the past 18 months and fails to take my current employment status into consideration.

    I understand where you are coming from but I differ on the solution. I believe that the Federal Government is part of that same Protection Racket. Politicians are paid for by Big Pharma – and others – to do their bidding. I simply do not trust them.

    If a Georgia Man wants to see a Georgia Doctor, why does the Federal Government need to be involved?

    The solution that I believe we should adopt is Long-Term Catastrophic Care (LTCC). Under this plan, a federal program would kick in for certain major health conditions, such as Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke, Trauma, End of Life. People would then be free to purchase (or not purchase) insurance plans on the free market to cover them for other medical conditions.

    The cost of this health care insurance would be dramatically less expensive allowing more people to procure coverage. Under these policies, people would have choice and benefit from a competitive marketplace.

    The cost of LTCC would be single payer. It would be part of our social fabric and provide all Americans with a safety net against catastrophe. Rich folk who want to go outside the LTCC system would still be able to do so at their own expense.

    This is a hybrid solution that nobody has yet proposed. To me, this provides the best balance of protection and choice.

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