Monday, July 28, 2014

The weekly Daley: Obamacare and other messes

From page A4 | November 08, 2013 |

Like many others, I had high hopes when the president first announced his intention to secure a reform of the nation’s healthcare system with a focus on providing a reasonable level of services to the many millions of uninsured or severely under-insured Americans. Universal healthcare is what he had in mind, I believed. A system kind of like those in effect in places like Canada, Sweden, France and the U.K. but with features tailored to America and the American way of life. That’s what I was looking for. My disappointment with Obamacare is in line with those who believe it didn’t go far enough to actually reform the system.

The individual mandate is silly and un-American. The waivers and loopholes are sleazy and too American. (See the tax code for a comparable example.) The exchanges are something out of a nightmare, not unlike trying to get help with your computer by calling a number that nobody works at and listening to Muzak until you can’t stand it anymore. That’s the number that says your call will be answered in approximately eight minutes to 17 hours and that “your call is important to us.”

When early reports pointed out that the Affordable Care Act was running up into the thousands of pages, I despaired. When early reports said the Website was virtually unusable, I despaired even more. What I’d had in mind was a simple fix.  You set up a system that ensures that everyone gets treatment when they need it. We already have models such as Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal. You don’t have to mess with systems already in place for people who get insurance from their employer or can afford their own. One system should have no bearing on the other. The tax structure should have been altered to pay for the system. We’re paying for the indigent and uninsured anyway, we’re told, usually through higher costs for care at the pump, as it were. And part of the problem with that is the inconsistency found from one part of the country to another — or one part of a state to another — or even one part of town to another.

In effect, you can get a new liver for $59,350 here. Over there, it’ll run you close to a quarter of a million, maybe more.

My brother the conservative called the other night and opened the conversation with something like, “Well, your guy is a $%*& liar. What do you think of that?” I ascertained that he was quoting something he’d just heard on FOX reminding that the president had said “If you like your health plan and your doctor, you can keep them both.” And evidently that may not be 100 percent true. Ergo, the president is a “$%*& liar.” From his perspective there’s no acceptable middle ground, no way to lessen the intentional deceit.

I don’t know anyone who has lost their doctor or their health insurance but I’ll accept that for some reason there are some. Whether it was the fault of the ACA or not, I’ll have to hang fire and find out more about it. On the surface, it seems to me that nothing in the ACA flat-out requires insurance companies to cancel individual policies. So blaming Obamacare for the actions of an insurance company is a bit misdirected. I’ve always heard that a company can cancel its contract with you if it wants to. My car insurance company did that to me one time. That the insurance company says some aspects of the ACA could cause it to lose some money, therefore it’s going to cancel your policy, I could understand. But, it’s the company, not the ACA that’s cancelling your policy. The president tarted it up a little too much. I’ll acknowledge that.

And that’s the problem with trying to combine the old fashioned American healthcare system with a pseudo-universal healthcare system. The old fashioned system is basically governed by the law of the jungle. We only like it because it’s familiar, and many, if not most of us, never have to ponder coming up with seven or eight or $15,000 for one pill or one laser blast or whatever. Our insurance covers it and passes its cost on to other people.

The ACA was supposed to bring healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it on their own. How and where did that concept go south?

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. G.W. Bush told us so, not once but a dozen times or more. Vice President Cheney confirmed it. Colin Powell reiterated it at the U.N. The invasion and war in Iraq was to be “a walk to the beach,” purported by Donald Rumsfeld. I mentioned that to my brother and reminded him that he had not insisted those guys were liars. He didn’t remember.

I don’t remember a lot of the same people who now call Obama a liar saying the same about George W. and Dick Cheney and Company. Think of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and a host of others, not to mention Rush, and Hannity, et. al. Apparently it’s OK for one president to stretch the truth or more accurately, embellish a statement with hope, as long as it’s for a cause that one believes in. Not OK for another president to do it in a cause one does not believe in. Go figure.

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.





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