I've fought the big insurance company machine going back to the first institution of "HMOs" and their draconian "deny first" policies; taking my case, at one point, directly to Senator Bill Bradley. (Yes, THAT long ago.) I've dealt with preventive childhood services not being covered because they were "well visits," children forced to wear heavy plaster casts because the lighter ones weren't covered, medication dropped from the insurance company "preferred" list, co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance and lifetime limits. Imagine getting a letter that your teenager has exhausted her lifetime allowance for CT scans and a particular blood test. Her LIFETIME limit. I remember people holding onto jobs that were miserable and paid terribly because they had pre-existing conditions and were afraid they would be rejected by the next employer because of it. Or people mysteriously fired after contracting cancer, getting pregnant or developing another "health issue" causing them to miss work. I've had family members graduate college, go to work, not be offered health insurance and be left with either paying for an individual plan or paying student loans. The vision of the Affordable Care Act was to relieve some of this craziness. Perhaps the saddest part is, it was written with the idea that Americans understand how insurance works. How those who are fortunate enough to not need it TODAY help those who do. That we all understood the concept of "it could happen to me." We expected that a supposedly religious nation would ascribe to the "there, but for the grace of God, go I" proverb.
However, the coldest, cruelest attitudes of capitalism raised their heads. The same attitudes - and resulting actions - that have suppressed wages, raised CEO and other compensations to 100, 200, 500 times the compensation of their lowest paid workers (In the 60s a 20 to 1 ratio was considered generous.) While American businesses were downsizing in order to artificially boost the bottom line for stockholders, insurance companies were buying stock in tobacco and getting into bed with pharmaceutical companies. And they have been making money. Obscene amounts of money. Even factoring in the "exchange losses" they are quick to highlight, they still made huge profits. And this is because the compromises made for the ACA included not putting any rules in places to curtail Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies.
The minute the law passed, thousands of us received notices that our plans were "no longer available." And yes, I mean employer-provided plans as well as individual plans. How "lucky" we were that a new plan was available. But, oh, this one now contains a deductible. And certain "co-insurances" that apply whether or not you have met your deductible. Not to mention a new payment schedule for prescription medicines and an even more restrictive "preferred" medication list. Some even raised their deductible before the plan year was over.
And above our heads, politicians, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies battled with each other about how impossible it was to deal with the concept of health insurance for almost everyone. Some insurance companies bailed out as soon as they could, and the attitude of "why should I have to pay for..." became the drumbeat for some.
- Why should I have to pay into an insurance plan that pays to rebuild your house that burned down? My house didn't burn down.
- Why should I have to pay taxes for natural disaster relief? I don't live where there are tornadoes and floods.
- Why should I have to pay for your pregnancy? I'm a man.
- Why should I have to pay for your Viagra? I'm a woman.
- Why should I have to pay for your sickness? I live right. You obviously don't.
This week we found out that the "destruction for the sake of destruction" crowd is closer to creating their "every person for themself" version of America. They think because they have money, influence, powerful friends and a sense of superiority that they are immune to calamity and illness. They think that even if they do get sick, they can cover their own expenses despite the fact that no one is looking into how to control costs. Their ignoring of "it could happen to me" is shortsighted, and against everything I was raised to believe about the United States. It breaks my heart. A heart that soon may no longer be eligible for healthcare. I guess getting rid of the "surplus population" may actually be what is at work here.