By Caroline Thew | Our Voice Contributor
The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect and there is currently a bill to implement Universal Healthcare or Medicare For All (H.R.676). The Republican majority and the 45th President of the United States are still bent on removing many of the protections in the ACA. They seem to think shopping for health care is like getting a cellphone plan. It is not. It is not even in the same encyclopedia, let alone the same page as a cellphone plan.
We buy cell phones once every two to five years and usually pay installments as part of a plan. Insurance premiums are paid monthly and inevitably increase over time. Cell phone installments range from $20 to $50 whereas insurance plans range from $50 a month for a catastrophic plan to several thousand dollars per month for gold and platinum plans with low co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles. Even with the federal subsidy, you must claim the amount on your income taxes as a form of income so your refund shrinks or you end up owing depending on your tax status and income level. Yay.
Smartphones are now considered a necessity in order to gain and maintain employment. For some people, it is their most reliable and affordable access to the internet besides the public library. Health insurance...not so much. People can and do struggle. Some manage to get by without insurance and are able to maintain employment.
Many people fall into the gap between Medicaid expansion and affordability for an actual plan. My husband and I fall into this category. I am disabled and am applying for Supplemental Security Income; my husband works. He makes too much for us to be on Medicaid. With the $327 monthly subsidy, a modest plan with a reasonable deductible and manageable co-pays was still $300 per month. That is way outside of our budget with a car payment, car insurance, mortgage, and other normal adult expenses. Catastrophic plans hurt us more than help us because we pay a monthly premium for a plan that has a $6000 per person deductible. Because we technically have insurance, our doctors cannot give us reduced self-pay fees even though we are self-pay thanks to ridiculously high deductibles.
When a catastrophic illness does hit, which happened a few weeks ago, the hospital cannot provide funding through charitable assistance programs. A $1395 per year penalty is less expensive than having the catastrophic plan when you take these items into account. For the past few years we have taken the penalty, still had a tax refund, and have had access to community medical programs for people like us.
The current GOP majority needs to stop telling us that we can "choose" or "make" health insurance our "priority". Our health is our priority! Not only is our physical health a priority, but our mental and financial health are as well.
The Ohio Congressman ,who told a constituent that her son needed to get a better job that offers health insurance is out of touch with reality. In some places, service jobs are the only thing available without having to move, which costs a ton of money. Commuting more than an hour each way adds costly transportation expenses. Many people cannot afford to get training for the highly specialized skills needed for higher paying jobs; employers are not always willing to work with student schedules or homework loads. Try some compassion!
The working poor are struggling to make ends meet. We cannot buy better jobs or buy more money. Life does not work that way! We need Universal Healthcare NOW!