While the nation waits breathlessly to find out what the fate of Obamacare will be, there has been – and will continue to be – a lot of patronizing chatter about what’s best for “low-income people.”
On Sunday, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) claimed President Trump was “literally setting the entire health-care system on fire” by ending Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies.
For their part, the insurance industry has responded to Trump’s move with a real charm offensive, touting a report that shows a six-figure salary is average for 9,000+ insurance employees in my onetime home of Connecticut, which has more than its share of poverty.
As one of those (formerly) “low-income” people who are constantly invoked to rationalize Obama’s bill of goods, you know what I say? God bless President Trump.
The questionable legality of the subsidies has been ably covered elsewhere. Instead, I would like to give a personal account of the humiliating experience it was to be forced onto an Obamacare exchange – and how infuriating it is when propagandists like Murphy and others use people like me as props for their failed policies.
While living in Connecticut, I made somewhere between 200 and 250% of the poverty level every year. That’s not a complaint; I made my choices and was reasonably content, fed, housed, clothed, et cetera. The problem is that politicians, news media, and commentators treat “low-income people” like a monolithic, homogeneous group and don’t seem to care.
In May 2014, I was informed by letter that my individual, high-deductible insurance policy – which I’d had for several years without an issue – was not ACA-compliant and was being discontinued. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t die, much to the Democrats’ chagrin.)
I can’t say I was remotely surprised, though I had hoped it would not happen. A few months earlier, a friend of a friend made the news when her plan was cancelled, threatening care for her daughter, who had been through more than 80 surgeries due to a rare disease.
What did shock me: in lieu of what once was a very sensible plan for a person of average health in her late 20s, I was being offered a new plan with double the premium and a deductible six times as high. But hey, now I could get sterilized at someone else’s expense. Whoop dee do!
This was simply untenable. However, there were serious problems with the state exchange. At that time, Barth Bracy, head of Rhode Island Right to Life, was suing Access Health CT for not offering a single pro-life policy.
Two years earlier, friends and I had successfully fought the efforts of a singularly arrogant little bunch of would-be oligarchs on an unelected advisory panel to mandate that abortion be considered an “essential benefit” on the state health exchange.
Unfortunately it was a hollow victory – every private health insurance plan in Connecticut, thirty-three of them in all, voluntarily covered elective abortion. I actually wept as I looked at policies on the exchange. One of them, I remember, would pay for up to three abortions per insured. It violated every iota of principle I have.
The more I agonized and stressed about this, ironically, the more I probably could have used professional support. I wasn’t even on Obamacare yet and it was already making me ill.
I weighed dropping out and paying the penalty. In the end, to keep peace in the family, I rode out the rest of the year until a Multi-State plan that didn’t cover abortion finally became available. That meant accepting help from my parents at a time when I was desperately trying to assert my independence.
Also, I was still paying for objectionable things, just arguably not the worst.
Come January, kicking and screaming, I went on the exchange. My plan was two thirds subsidized. I was vexed to think someone else was funding this wasteful nonsense.
In December 2015, I learned my premiums would be going up 30% in the new year.
Those subsidies are not exactly a free gift, either, as I discovered when I got a new job, moved, and canceled. I was whacked with an extra $750 in federal taxes on phony money that had never seen the inside of my wallet. For having moderately improved my situation, I was penalized.
When I joined the exchange, there were four carriers. Now there are two.
All of this – being fed transparent lies, losing my plan, the violation of conscience, the senseless waste – might have been somewhat more tolerable had most of the Obamacare cheerleaders in my life ever so much as acknowledged my loss as a loss.
To this day, only one person has ever apologized, and I had to ask. It’s enough of an indignity to have politicians act as though people like me don’t exist, or certain celebrity priests ratchet up the histrionic rhetoric on social media.
The deeper cut was when friends told me the plan I liked and wanted to keep had been substandard, argued that for the greater good I just needed to ‘lie back and think of England’ (so to speak), and even censored me and gave me the silent treatment for disrupting the narrative.
I’m one of the sixteen million people who never asked to be put in this position, and I certainly am not going to blame the current president for letting nature take its course, even if some in my own party seem confused about this. Those who really want to help “low-income people” will stop imagining they can discern everything that matters to said people by checking a line on their tax return.