Brace yourselves. I’m still reeling from my recent head-on collision with the Affordable Care Act, and I’m fired up about the government taking my money. (OK, technically the money goes to a certain health insurer downtown, but I'm trying to make an impassioned argument, so poetic license is in order here.)
Now, I rarely show my political colors in public. My political bent is no one’s business, for one thing. And for another, I am not particularly invested in any one issue. Most of the time, I am simply happy to live in the home of the free, and I resolutely accept the bad stuff that inevitably comes with all the good in these here United States.
I registered as a Democrat at age 18 because my mother told me that Kentucky rarely turned out any decent Republican candidates, so it was important to be able to vote in the Democratic primaries and at least help choose the best jackass out of that bunch. I don’t know if I agree with her logic, but I’ve left my official allegiance with that camp all these years.
If I had to pick a party based solely on my beliefs, I would align with the Libertarians. When it comes to supporting business and industry, I am a conservative capitalist. On social issues, I fall more on the liberal side of the fence.
I don’t care who marries whom (everyone should have an equal right to be miserable), and while I personally could not and would not get an abortion, I pass no judgment on those who do. I believe in a woman’s right to choose.
When it comes to health care, I have always believed that children, the elderly and the physically and mentally disabled should get it free. They can’t support themselves, plain and simple. I am also all for making health insurance affordable to everyone, in theory. A $20 aspirin at the hospital is bullshit.
But I just went through open enrollment to purchase an individual plan compliant under the ACA, and the experience left me with mixed feelings. Mostly, I am pissed off.
Let me say that I am no expert on the ACA. I don’t know the entire law. How could I? The effin’ thing is 2,400 pages long — not exactly light reading on my porch on a Sunday. But I know more than the average person because I do a lot of health care communications in my job. There is good intention behind it, but it is so unnecessarily complicated that it’ll be a miracle if it ultimately serves the purpose it was enacted to serve.
When I first went out on my own as a freelance writer and media consultant, one of my first orders of business was to secure health insurance for me and my son. I worked with a fabulous agent to weigh my options. I was pleased she was able to find a high-deductible plan for both of us at a cost that basically was the equivalent of a credit card payment. That plan was grandfathered in under the ACA until 2015. It will cease to exist next year, so I had to start from scratch during open enrollment, which began this month.
My agent sent me four quotes, the lowest of which was double what I had been paying before, and that was for just ME. The deductible was also nearly double what I was working with on my previous family plan.
I actually said, out loud, to my agent on the phone: “Damn, Obama really IS screwing the middle class.” (My Republican father would’ve been proud.)
But then, she told me that because my son is 19, makes just above minimum wage, and I no longer claim him on my taxes, he is eligible for his own, FREE plan under Medicaid.
Shut the front door. I went from being irate to relieved that my son would be covered at no cost to me, or to him. I was also thrilled to discover that, because there is no medical underwriting, the application process was easy and fast. The first time, it took my agent and I two freaking hours to get through all the questions.
See? Mixed emotions. I could not be more conflicted about all this.
As a hard-working American, I do not want to foot the bill for people who are too lazy to work. But I am OK with paying more for my health care so people like my son — who is doing the best he can with the resources he’s got — will not go without. I am also OK that my higher premiums may ultimately help people like one of my best friends, who had been previously denied coverage because of her pre-existing medical conditions. I’m truly happy that she has access to the care she needs now, thanks to the law.
But shit, man. This huge increase in my health insurance sure feels like I am being bent over at the waist and unmercifully pounded by big, bad government.
This new plan will represent my largest monthly payment, excluding only my mortgage. It means I’m going to have a harder time paying down existing debt, and it means I will probably have to put off (again) saving for retirement. I am blessed, however, that it won’t mean I will go hungry.
I have worked my ass off to build a better life for myself, so I resent what seems like a major roadblock in my forward progress. My inner capitalist wants to climb the fence at the White House and shake the shit out of everyone in it. Of course, this is my visceral outrage talking, and I would never really do that. (Hear that, NSA? Point your satellite somewhere else.)
In a utopian society, access to quality health care would be a right, and nobody would have to pay out the ass for it. Hell, so would higher education, for that matter.
God knows I will be paying on my undergrad and grad school loans until I am on my deathbed, and then my son will have to use my life insurance to finish them off. It really burns me up that my alma maters spend gazillions on athletics and then have the gall to call me for donations. But that’s a rant for another day.
Anyhoo, this ain't utopia, and I have to work within the constraints of the real world. I'll make sure the extra money is in my bank account come January for the new automatic withdrawal amount, but I'll be gritting my teeth and cursing while I do it.
In the spirit of this holiday week, let me end on this note: I am truly grateful that both my son and I will have decent health coverage in 2015. I am also grateful that I live in a country where I am free to complain about the health care system.
So ... fuck the government, and happy Thanksgiving.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After 10 years, she's still just saying.