Thursday, January 2, 2014

Michael Moore Wants More

Michael Moore had an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times castigating Obamacare for being a sellout to the insurance industry and not going far enough.

What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney’s car. And we knew it.

By 2017, we will be funneling over $100 billion annually to private insurance companies. You can be sure they’ll use some of that to try to privatize Medicare.

For many people, the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act risks being a cruel joke. The cheapest plan available to a 60-year-old couple making $65,000 a year in Hartford, Conn., will cost $11,800 in annual premiums. And their deductible will be $12,600. If both become seriously ill, they might have to pay almost $25,000 in a single year. (Pre-Obamacare, they could have bought insurance that was cheaper but much worse, potentially with unlimited out-of-pocket costs.)

And yet — I would be remiss if I didn’t say this — Obamacare is a godsend. My friend Donna Smith, who was forced to move into her daughter’s spare room at age 52 because health problems bankrupted her and her husband, Larry, now has cancer again. As she undergoes treatment, at least she won’t be in terror of losing coverage and becoming uninsurable. Under Obamacare, her premium has been cut in half, to $456 per month.

Let’s not take a victory lap yet, but build on what there is to get what we deserve: universal quality health care.

Those who live in red states need the benefit of Medicaid expansion. It may have seemed like smart politics in the short term for Republican governors to grab the opportunity offered by the Supreme Court rulings that made Medicaid expansion optional for states, but it was long-term stupid: If those 20 states hold out, they will eventually lose an estimated total of $20 billion in federal funds per year — money that would be going to hospitals and treatment.

In blue states, let’s lobby for a public option on the insurance exchange — a health plan run by the state government, rather than a private insurer. In Massachusetts, State Senator James B. Eldridge is trying to pass a law that would set one up. Some counties in California are also trying it. Montana came up with another creative solution. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who just completed two terms, set up several health clinics to treat state workers, with no co-pays and no deductibles. The doctors there are salaried employees of the state of Montana; their only goal is their patients’ health. (If this sounds too much like big government to you, you might like to know that Google, Cisco and Pepsi do exactly the same.)

All eyes are on Vermont’s plan for a single-payer system, starting in 2017. If it flies, it will change everything, with many states sure to follow suit by setting up their own versions. That’s why corporate money will soon flood into Vermont to crush it. The legislators who’ll go to the mat for this will need all the support they can get: If you live east of the Mississippi, look up the bus schedule to Montpelier.

So let’s get started. Obamacare can’t be fixed by its namesake. It’s up to us to make it happen.

Those are good ideas, which means that with the Congress we have and the lobbyists who pay them, they’ll never happen.

3 barks and woofs on “Michael Moore Wants More

  1. I don’t think anyone believes the ACA is the be-all, end-all of healthcare provisioning reform: too many compromises were made in its creation for it to be anything but incremental.

    I’m really getting sick, though, of the incessant whines like this:

    For many people, the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act risks being a cruel joke. The cheapest plan available to a 60-year-old couple making $65,000 a year in Hartford, Conn., will cost $11,800 in annual premiums. And their deductible will be $12,600. If both become seriously ill, they might have to pay almost $25,000 in a single year. (Pre-Obamacare, they could have bought insurance that was cheaper but much worse, potentially with unlimited out-of-pocket costs.)

    Notice that Moore at once says “this is bad” and then adds sotto voce “but it used to be so much worse.” It’s truly remarkable how that unlimited out-of-pocket costs part gets conveniently forgotten when discussing pre-ACA “coverage”: the idea that healthcare – especially catastrophic-illness-or-injury care – before this year was effectively unaffordable to anyone unable to self-insure and not either covered by an employer’s plan or on Medicare seems to have missed every single progressive critic of the program. Suggesting that keeping one’s house, retirement savings, personal effects, credit rating etc “risks being a cruel joke” in comparison to the pre-ACA situation, or that incrementally higher premiums aren’t to be expected with vastly improved coverage, does nothing to help the argument, and can easily be used by the Reichwing as “proof” that the ACA doesn’t work.

    Moore is correct that the health insurance should be a far less burdensome part of life in the US. But flogging the ACA for not doing enough, when the primary alternatives presented were a) nothing or b) something measurably worse than nothing, is counterproductive, and misses the point of the program entirely.

  2. Your points are, of course, well-taken. And I agree. But the one thing an op-ed like this does is give Obama and the Dems a veil — albeit a thin one — of cover from the Orcosphere: “Hey, look, the lefties hate it, too, because it isn’t ‘soshulist’ enough.” It’s a cable show talking point, but then, most of the noise about the law has been that anyway.

    (PS: Boatboy, give me a call. The number’s the same.)

  3. I worked in Mexico for five years and they were setting up their national health care. It is suppose to be completely in place by 2015 along with dental care; how about that. Of course they said some of the treatments did not include anesthesia; that’s what they said.

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