Obamacare Good For Some, Troubling For Others

The Greasy Pole

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Had one of those days when the news actually mattered.

Started out with a busted furnace and an amiable repair guy — hardworking, conscientious, struggling to make ends meet, full of layered, enthusiastic knowledge concerning the inner workings of heaters. He fiddled with the beast, bringing it back to life, making it purr. I watched intently for awhile — feeling reassured that I couldn’t possibly have made the darn thing work myself. He shifted his position, due to the long-time injury to his back. That somehow led to a conversation about health insurance.

Turns out, he’s a great example of the dark side of Obamacare — and the law of unintended consequences.

An initially little-noted provision of the ambitious effort to make insurance available to an additional 32 million Americans requires businesses with more than 50 workers to pay a penalty if they don’t provide insurance to full time employees — then defines “full time” as working an average of more than 30 hours a week.

So the heater repair guy said the edict has gone out: None of the repair guys can work more than 32 hours in any given week.

He says that the company has sharply reduced the hours everyone can work. He’s afraid he’s going to lose his house.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions — listen what happened next.

I trundled on over to KMOG, where I do a weekly stint on the Forum with Stephanie Landers.

One of the first callers said he’d gone onto the federal Web site to check out the insurance options, although he had little hope he’d find anything. To his surprise, he had no trouble getting through, filling out an application, providing the information — and finding a host of insurance options. Right now, he said he and his wife are paying something like $11,000 annually for insurance — with a $5,000 deductible. Turns out, the best policy he could find on the Web site would cost about $12,000, with a $3,000 deductible. However, based on his income — he’ll qualify for an $9,000 premium subsidy. So he’ll end up saving a huge amount of money for a more comprehensive policy.

He sounded somewhere between bemused and delighted — given all the horror stories he’s been hearing.

The two stories illustrated the terrible breakdown of our political culture these past few years. One side puts up a flawed, ambitious, desperately needed reform — complete with unintended consequences. The other side devotes its entire energy to demonizing the other side and predicting disaster — without making any effort at all to instead fix the flaws — things like giving employers an incentive to cut everybody back to part-time work.

Out in the world where an estimated 65,000 Americans die annually for lack of health insurance, people are starting to find their way to the Web site, which apparently no longer suffers from the disastrous glitches opponents so gleefully jumped on. The pace of the applications has picked up significantly since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services worked out the most galling problems with the Web site. An estimated 20 percent of Arizona residents lack medical insurance, but the great majority of those will likely be eligible for free or reduced-price health insurance through the exchange.

After the early pitfalls and lockups, the federal healthcare.gov has now logged 39 million visitors. An estimated 48 million Americans currently lack insurance.

Meanwhile, opponents continue to rail against the program and seek to turn its shortcomings to political advantage.

The Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn an “assessment” imposed on mostly willing hospitals to cover state costs associated with the expansion of AHCCCS as part of the federal reforms. The feds will pay all the costs of that expansion initially, so the extra money paid by the hospitals will actually bolster state coffers. The hospitals mostly supported the assessment since extending health care coverage to so many Arizona residents should drastically reduce hospital’s bad debt for treating uninsured patients.

However, the Goldwater Institute maintains that the assessment was really a tax — and therefore needed the approval of a two-thirds majority of the state legislature under the terms of the voter-approved Proposition 108.

Meanwhile, opponents keep staging symbolic votes, shutting down the government, putting out hysterical press releases and refusing to grapple with either the deadly number of people without insurance — or the ruinous cost of insurance for those who do.

A Bloomberg study rated the United States 46th in the world in terms of efficiency — behind Romania and Iran. The International Federation of Health Plans compared the costs of various procedures in 25 countries and produced shocking results — at least for Americans. A routine office visit cost $10 in Argentina, $38 in Chile and $176 in the U.S. An angiogram: $35 in Canada, $264 in France and $2,400 here. A day in the hospital: $429 in Argentina, $1,472 in Australia and between $4,287 and $12,535 in the U.S. The U.S. spends 20 percent of its enormous Gross Domestic Product on healthcare — far more than almost any other country.

So instead of playing political games trying to prevent any reform at all — why not tackle the real problems?

Must make sense to the folks who have staged 50 separate votes on repealing Obamacare.

As for me, I can’t stop worrying about the heater repair guy — or feeling happy for that radio caller.

Comments

Linda Teasley 7 months, 1 week ago

The trouble with this article is that it deal with actual facts. Yes!

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

So Mr. Aleshire, was there no way to insure those 36 million without turning our personal healthcare decisions over to bureaucrats? It is already proven that the cost of this government takeover of the healthcare system is going to cost those that were already insured far more than they were paying before the intrusion. We are only recently coming to learn all that is in that legislation and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Give it a couple of more years. That is from the CBO so don't try your usual progressive/socialist spin about that data being skewed for political purposes. Can you in all honesty demonstrate or provide one (1) instance where the Federal Government has been more efficient and cost effective than those in the private sector? Just one! We'll all wait while you frantically Google for such a service.

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John Lemon 7 months, 1 week ago

Mr. Aleshire, Most readers of the Roundup have ascertained that you have soci0-political preferences that can be described as "liberal". Again, most of us take it in stride and adjust to an author's biases or prejudices. Of late, however, you have been pushing the limit of our tolerance and I wish that you would do a bit of self-examination. Your final remarks about "political games" belittles those who disagree with your views and is too disrespectful."Know thyself " before you write things based on your viewpoints, or tag then as such.

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

Just to put forth a different view than Mr. Aleshire's, I offer this extract from a Fiscal Times article:

For years, Democrats had demanded federal action to address the problem of Americans without health insurance coverage. Estimates of this population went from 14 million to 40 million during the debate in 2009-10 over the scope of the crisis and potential solutions for it.

While those numbers sound large, a Gallup poll in late 2009 [7] put them in better perspective, noting that 85 percent of American adults had health insurance, 87 percent of whom were satisfied with their coverage, and 61 percent satisfied with the costs. Even among the uninsured, half were satisfied with their situation, although only 27 percent expressed satisfaction about their costs for health care. Instead of designing a solution that focused on the half of the 15 percent who needed better options and leaving everyone else alone, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill insisted on imposing an overhaul of the entire health-insurance industry. This includes, crucially, an unprecedented individual mandate to carry health-insurance coverage. The ACA contains a highly-complex series of subsidies that help working-class Americans pay the now-skyrocketing premiums caused by coverage mandates on insurers, but only down to a certain income level.

Edward MorrisseyThe Fiscal Times December 19, 2013

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Meria Heller 7 months, 1 week ago

Obamacare is a giveaway to the already bloated overpriced insurance industry. Either you pay up or get fined. Their deductibles are high, coverage low. If you read the fine print you'll see that they will collect your assets after you are dead to pay for the treatment you received. We have a CARE shortage in this country, not an insurance shortage. Where's the "care" in Obamacare? Doctors are in short supply and already don't want to take on new patients. Many just retiring. This plumber's story is not unique. Our health care in this country is worse than most industrialized nations. Single payer healthcare would have solved the problem, saved money and paperwork -but then the Insurance industry wouldn't get their return on their political donations. Can't have that in a country now run by corporations since they have achieved corporate personhood thanks to the supreme court.

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Mel Mevis 7 months, 1 week ago

Just love all the BS and rhetoric....... I can only speak to my personal experience with health care this year.

My daughter was paying over $700 per month for medical and dental. Starting January 1, 2014 she will be paying $356 premium per month for medical and dental. It has a lower deductible and better coverage. This was coverage purchased through the exchange without any subsidies.

Being retired but three years short of medicare I still receive insurance through my former employer as a benefit. Changes in the law and a need to keep their insurance pool as large as possible resulted in significant savings to the tune of almost $2000 annually.

I have a friend who is self employed. He has not had insurance for over 10 years because he could not afford it. Guess what he will have insurance starting January 1, 2014. I think you will find a lot of people able to start small businesses.

If you look at the new law the employer only has to pay 50% of the premium the employee picks up the remainder. On top of that the employer gets a tax credit of 50% of what they pay. Personally I do not think very highly of an employer who would not provide health care for employees, especially when its is affordable. Sounds to me like the employer is ignorant of what is available or they are just playing politics with employees and that is BS. If I was a skilled employee I wold be looking for a new job.

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

So Mel, So that you do not get to pick and choose the "facts", you might want to contact those at the CBO about their projections. Might even talk with Mrs. Sebiilius, who has herself admitted that many will pay more for less in Congressional hearings on the matter. These are people who you favor. Are they lying to us? Oh! Wait, "if you like your current health insurance, you can keep it". No BS or rhetoric here, simply passing on what the "experts" are saying. That would be experts other than yourself or Mr. Aleshire .

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Mel Mevis 7 months, 1 week ago

So Ronald, So what is your personal experience? Or are you just going to quote other peoples opinions?

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

The ink from the presidents signature on the ACA wasn't even dry before I was notified that I could no longer keep the insurance I had at the time, due to the new regulations contained in the ACA. I was moved to a similar but different plan. So, long before his Press Office (mainstream Media) began focusing on it (the lie), I personally knew that what he and others kept saying about "if you like your current insurance, you can keep it!" was an outright lie. Time has proven that to be a correct assessment, Now we shall all wait and see just how many more lies they threw our way to conceal their nefarious goals with this government take-over of the healthcare system. In case you haven't been paying attention, this administration make a new "exception" to the law almost every day and there are new and here-to-fore unknown problems with that law.

I would put to you the same challenge I put to Mr. Aleshire. provide me with one (1) thing that the Federal Government has involved themselves in (outside their Constitutional prescribed roles)that could not have been done cheaper and better via the private sector. And with that track record, you are willing to submit yourself to government orchestrated healthcare. Sorry, Mr. Mevis, but that does not set well with me and millions of others as you have ascertained.

I think it speaks volumes that this nation prosecuted and prevailed in a two ocean war in the amount of time this administration had to prepare this 'program', and they simply have failed at almost every juncture. I thank God "they" were not leading this country during those years.

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Mel Mevis 7 months, 1 week ago

If it was not for this law my daughter would be uninsured. Here cobra would run out in May 2014 and being physically disabled her prior condition would preclude her from any insurance. Then we have the fact that the Arizona Legislature had defended AHCCCS so there would have been nothing there.

My friend would still be uninsured. His is 60 years old and finding a job with benefits is not very likely ......

I am glad to hear you still have insurance ........ you still have insurance. Prior to ACA insurance policies changed or were canceled each year ....... I remember my premium going up significantly every year, copay increased, and prescription drug cost skyrocketing. I really do not give much credence to your comment that changes were made to your plan or it was canceled, this was already happening on a large scale before ACA.

Did we really prevail in "two ocean wars"? The Taliban is still a force in Afghanistan and if you think Iraq was a success I suggest you take your next holiday in Baghdad. We may have "won" the fight, but history will show we got our behind thumped just like Russia. But then his has nothing do do with health care, but it goes to show your unreal view of the world.

If you think the Bush Administration was as good at prosecuting the Afghanistan War please explain why it was ignored for almost six years by GWB. I know a little about war ......... using mercenaries has never had good outcomes, if GWB had the testicals to use our troops Osama bin Laden wold have been dead at Tora Bora. What administration got Osama?

Your views of history and society are skewed.

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

Let me restate my final comment in the above post because it is apparent you didn't know what I was referring to., The United States entered the WW2 due to the Japanese attack at Pearl harbor, December 7, 1941. The US fought both in Europe and in the Pacific and prevailed against both the Axis in Europe and Imperial Japan in the Pacific. It ended 1,365 days later on September 2, 1945, with the surrender ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010. Today, December 20, 2013, marks the 1,368th day of post-enactment Obamacare implementation. Now if you want to deny those statistics, then you and I have nothing to discuss further. I stand by what I said regarding their abysmal failure at putting the ACA into effect.

" I really do not give much credence to your comment that changes were made to your plan or it was canceled, this was already happening on a large scale before ACA." Well I suppose you are calling me a liar with that statement. Be that as it may, I suppose I am in good company as you have accepted all the lies this administration and the Democrats have fed the American people regarding the ACA. And as I said in my original post, do you not think the administration could have addressed the needs of the uninsured, along with your friends and daughter WITHOUT ruining the coverage that 86% of those who had insurance and were happy with it had? you seem to be glad only because it was not your ox that was gored. 290 million people have had their health insurance taken over by the Feds and been "mandated" to purchase it or pay fines, so that perhaps 30 million uninsured can get coverage. Sounds reasonable and balanced to me .Not!!

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

Must say I was amused by your obvious Bush Derangement Syndrome. So that you don't misunderstand, I am not a member of the GOP. I personally thought GWB was a failure during his terms and that the whole of the Middle east is not worth one drop of American blood.

Back to the original topic, I lost my wife of 47 years to cancer a few years ago. When she was diagnosed we had to return to California for her treatment as we were insured through Kaiser Permanente who does not serve Arizona. After a years treatment there, she wanted to return to our home in Pine and working through Kaiser and my previous employer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona took us even with her obvious pre-existing condition. So much for those evil insurance companies not taking people with pre-existing conditions.. Her treatments back here ran well over a million dollars before she lost her battle. As you can imagine, I got a lot of experience dealing with insurance during those years. I am not so gullible to think that everyone has the same experience I did, but as I said, they did not need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

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Mel Mevis 7 months, 1 week ago

Sorry for your loss, and glad you had a good experience. But I have personally seen how insurance companies fail to provide the services you paid premiums to receive.

My daughter payed for disability insurance for almost 20 years. She has three conditions that should qualify her, but her insurance company continues to deny her claim. She has lost her home, job, declared bankruptcy, and been forced to move in with dad.

One of my best friends lost his wife three years ago. They had catastrophic health insurance. When she was diagnosed with cancer the insurance company said it was a preexisting condition and denied coverage. They had the insurance for over a year, but because symptoms had been noted by her doctor prior to their changing insurance companies, but not diagnosed. She had no insurance for the last 14 months of her life. I think you know how much that costs financially.

I am not calling you a liar, you are just another person listing to one side of an argument and buying a line of BS intended to solicit your vote.

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Mel Mevis 7 months, 1 week ago

It's funny to mention WWII, that was the last war we really won.

I like your analogy ..... the real success of the war took longer that 1,365. The Marshall plan started in 1948 and was officially in place for four years. After that we spent billions on aid around the world.

So, the war on health has just entered a new phase.

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

Mr. Mevis, As I said, I recognize and acknowledge that not everyone's experience with health Insurance is the same. Again, I ask you why you feel it was appropriate for the Federal Government to take away the health insurance from 86% of the population ,that those folks were happy with, and replace it with an inferior, more expensive product simply to address the needs of a 15% section of the populace? That is what lies at the crux of our difference of opinion. I don't begrudge people having access to health insurance, but I do not want the Federal Government involved in my healthcare decisions in any way ,shape or fashion. My doctor and I will decide those issues.

I would also add as to the timeline of WW2. Those statistics are correct to the day, and the analogy is not mine. The "Marshall Plan" was no doubt this nation's effort at helping those nations destroyed in that conflict, but we could just as easily have done what almost every other nation in history has done, Accept our laurels as the victors, and let the defeated fend for themselves. That simply is not in the DNA of America to take such an approach. And if we had not implemented the Marshall Plan, the Soviet Union was more than prepared to fill the void.

We may have differences on many issues, but one I feel is applicable to both of us is .....Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

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Ronald Hamric 7 months, 1 week ago

Ms. Heller,

If you read the legislation, you will find " they will collect your assets after you are dead to pay for the treatment you received" are not the insurance companies. They are the state and Federal government. Medicare is a true entitlement program that recipients paid for through their Social Security contributions. Medicaid, on the other hand is pure welfare, and it is those who are unknowingly being added to the Medicaid roles that are the one whose assets will become government assets after they pass on. As I said earlier, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Give it some time to be fully exposed, and then I think we can gather up our hoes. shovels and pitchforks and pay those that foisted this sham upon us, a well deserved visit.

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