Why I’m Republican and Love Obamacare

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OK, Money Talks News readers, I’ve psyched myself up, and I’m ready to upset a whole bunch of you. Yes, I am ready to out myself as an Obamacare lovin’ Republican.

I know some of you think MTN is shilling for Obama, but let me assure you if there is an editorial directive on health reform, I haven’t seen it. However, I have seen your reaction to posts by Stacy Johnson and Karen Datko on the subject and, as a freelance contributor to the site, I asked if I could add my perspective.

To be clear, the comments in this article are my opinion and mine alone and should not be construed as representative of the site in general.

I’m also quite sure some of you have your fingers hovering over the R-I-N-O keys so let me start by giving you my Republican credentials and political views.

  • I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life other than maybe when I was 18, didn’t know what I was doing and voted for people based on how patriotic their names sounded.
  • I’m worried our entitlement programs have turned into a handout and not a hand up. Without better accountability measures, I think our current system traps families in a cycle of poverty.
  • I would love to be able to invest my own Social Security money because with the government in charge, I don’t think my money is going to be waiting for me at retirement time.
  • I’m concerned with our punitive tax system. We say it’s the American dream for everyone to make it big, but if you succeed, by golly, we’re going to take your money away and give it to someone else.
  • I think less government is better government, except in cases of life and death (which is where I think health insurance falls).

So that said, this is why I love the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is so affectionately called by some.

I love that it will help ensure everyone has access to care

I’ve been reporting on health reform since before the law passed, and in the early days, there was a lot of concern about government death panels deciding who would get care and who would be left to die.

Well, we already have our own version of death panels: It’s called health insurance. If you have coverage, you get treatment. If not, well, tough for you.

True story: When my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, the parting words of the doctor who did the endoscopy were, no joke, “I hope you have health insurance. Because you’re going to need it.”

Boy, was he right. When I called the cancer center for general information, they asked for our insurance information. When I made the consultation appointment, they asked for our insurance information. When we showed up, they checked our insurance information. In the middle of the consultation, we met with a finance guy who, that’s right, checked our insurance information.

And then get this. We show up for the first chemo visit, my husband is hooked to the IV and the nurse says she needs to wait a minute before getting started. When my husband asked why, she said it was because they needed to reconfirm our insurance coverage. My husband asked what happens if the insurance company says they won’t pay, and the nurse told him they would probably pull us back to meet with a financial adviser and they might need to change the treatment plan.

In other words, if you don’t have health insurance, you get sub-par treatment.

That brings me to the next reason I love Obamacare.

I love that it gives new options for those with pre-existing conditions

If you have only ever had insurance through your workplace, you probably think the health insurance system is great. I know I did when I had group coverage. But if you are one of the 5 percent of Americans who buy their own insurance, it’s a different story.

One huge difference is how pre-existing conditions have been treated under the law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 limited the ability of group insurance plans to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. However, no such protection was extended to those buying individual plans. If you had a pre-existing condition and needed to buy your own health insurance, you were up the proverbial creek and without an oar.

Here’s my real-world example – one that helped change my view on health insurance. In the summer of 2010, in anticipation of leaving my office job, which provided our family insurance, I received a quote for individual coverage that was $800 a month with a $7,000 deductible. And that was the good plan out of multiple choices.

My husband was diagnosed with cancer a few months later and then our options dwindled down to exactly zero. Fortunately, a 1986 federal law – the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) – gave me the right to continue to buy my former workplace policy for 18 months. It cost $1,300 a month but, hey, what else are you going to do if you need coverage?

Then after 18 months, thanks to that same federal law, our insurance provider was required to offer us an individual insurance plan. This mercifully dropped our premiums to $800 a month but gave us a $5,000 deductible. However, we were grateful to just have insurance since my husband’s pre-existing condition meant no one else would cover us.

You may be thinking there were high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, right? Well, in our state, you needed to be uninsured for six months to be eligible. That’s not much help to people who have immediate medical needs.

It may also be crossing your mind that people could just get a job or they should have gotten health insurance earlier or it’s such a small percentage of people affected that we shouldn’t bother changing the system. Maybe or maybe not, but again, we’re talking about people’s lives here. I find the attitude of “too bad for you” to be disturbing, particularly when it comes from my fellow Christian Republicans.

I love that it focuses on preventive care and essential services

On a different note, I love that Obamacare is requiring insurance companies to provide free preventive services and cover essential services.

I know mandates go against the pro-business party line, but as a Republican, I appreciate the fiscal soundness behind this strategy. It makes more sense to pay $6,000 a year to help someone manage their diabetes than it does to have them develop end-stage renal disease, which can cost upward of $70,000 per year per patient.

Same thing goes for mental health services which, prior to the passage of Obamacare, were not covered by 1 in 5 individual health insurance plans. Under the law, mental health and substance abuse services are essential health benefits and must be covered by all new health insurance plans.

Does mandating mental illness coverage increase our health insurance premiums? Perhaps, but I can’t believe our costs will go up more than the estimated $200 billion we are already paying annually as a result of untreated mental illness. And that doesn’t include the emotional price we pay when someone’s untreated mental illness leads to tragedy.

In the short run, paying for preventive services and essential health benefits might cost us a little more. However, after crunching the numbers, I like to think my fiscally conservative friends would agree, in the long run, paying for preventive care simply makes sense.

I love that it gives premium assistance to working families

So many government assistance programs are geared toward people living at or just above the poverty limit, and I love that Obamacare is extending some financial love to the working middle class.

Many people work long hours to make ends meet and stay off the welfare rolls. If the government is going to be doling out money – and we all know it is – I’m glad these families are finally getting a piece of the pie.

Plus, as with preventive care, I would rather give working families a couple hundred dollars a month to supplement their premium payments and keep them covered rather than have us pay for their emergency room visits.

I love that it’s a start … but I’m not convinced it’s the answer

Finally, I love that Obamacare is getting the conversation started. It’s not perfect by any means, but it has moved what is, quite frankly, a life and death issue to the forefront.

That said, I am not convinced the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the answer to our health care problems. These are my concerns:

  • Constitutionality. Despite the fact I was secretly rooting for the bill, I was shocked when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. While I understand the reason for requiring everyone to get health insurance, the mandate seems like overreach of government authority. My hope would be that if affordable health insurance becomes widely available, everyone would be smart enough to take advantage of it without a government requirement.
  • Government incompetence. My second concern is that the government may simply not be up for the challenge. Despite having three years’ advance notice, the online marketplace was and is a mess. It took at least 10 hours of my time to get my application in and, in the end, a technical difficulty preventing me from even being able to view my plan choices. Instead, I had to rely on a phone operator who had a questionable level of knowledge to explain the available plans. Couple that with all the people having trouble accessing their benefits, and I’m starting to wonder if the government is causing more harm than good.

So the law isn’t perfect in my mind, but at least it’s moving our health care system in the right direction — a direction that ensures we don’t leave marginalized people to die.

There you have it: That’s why I’m Republican and love Obamacare. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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