The Health Care Bill and “Real Amuricuh”

Here in Indiana, the land of reality, we noticed the health care bill passed yesterday. Obama will sign it into law tomorrow. I suspect that in a few decades we’ll look back and say, “Yeah, that was probably a good moment.” But, right now, most of us are pissed because everything just got thrown into the air and no one knows how this will affect them.

Thankfully, our national media is here to help – albeit too late. With all the “how this will affect you” stories floating around, it makes you wonder why they didn’t publish these things months ago so we could, you know, be informed. Instead, all we got were “Death Panels”, Sarah Palin and “Republicans Don’t Like It”, despite the fact that none of these things were clear, concise or even made a damn bit of sense.

Now, it appears clear to me that as someone who is waiting on a healthcare provider to give me insurance, one thing seems certain and I’m not at all surprised: I have to spend more money, pay more taxes and I will no doubt get less care and I won’t get a damn cent to pay for it any of it.

Here’s how this works, for those of us “average” Americans, at Indiana’s average pay scale around $40-$60k:

  • I’ll be required to buy insurance. The theory goes that if everyone has it, the risk is equally shared and premiums will go down.
  • I’ll be taxed more for it because not only do I pay my personal taxes, I’m also a small business that will have to pay more, too.
  • While the government is taking money out of my left pocket, I’ll be forced to take money out of my right pocket to pay for my healthcare, as mandated by the first point.
  • Because I make my whopping $45k a year, I’ll be forced to let something go somewhere to pay for it all – probably cable, or fresh green beans. Likely both. And, because I make so damn much money, I won’t see any federal help in paying for it.
  • Because Indiana won’t have enough money to cover its share of the federal mandated Medicaid/Medicare coverage, they’ll have to pick a little more out of my left pocket.
  • The insurance I want won’t be as good – it can’t be. The coverage I want is a health savings account that costs all of $56 a month. I can pick as much or as little money as I choose to put back in tax-deferred savings, too, that I can use for dental and vision coverage, as I’ve done for years. Because every sick smoker and fat ass in the country will be flowing onto the insurance rolls, I’ll get dumped in with the “high-risk” people because I’m just a guy without a “real employer”.
  • Because I’ll be in the high-risk pool, I’ll be forced to pay higher premiums with all the other people pay higher premiums, too, so we can all subsidize everyone else – despite the fact I make it a point never to touch fast food, I don’t drink cola anymore, I don’t eat much meat, I exercise three nights a week and I’m 22 – but, hey, I’m a high risk mo-fo that’ll cost about $150-$250 a month to insure, which I can’t afford. That’s like having another car.
  • Since I can’t afford another small car payment a month, I’ll be forced to get the bare-bones “basic” coverage for catastrophes so I don’t get fined by the IRS, which has to hire some additional 6k people to police everone. But, because that won’t cover anything beyond 3 primary care visits a year that I’ll never use (who gets a checkup when everything’s hunky-dory?) and, I guess, cancer or a stroke, if I have another kidney stone or cut my finger, I guess I’m still S.O.L.
  • Because I won’t get to have my HSA, I’ll have to pay for dental and vision expenses out of pocket, so that means I won’t be getting as many eye exams or tooth checkups anymore, either, probably because I have to pay a bunch of money each month to a plan that doesn’t cover damn near anything I want it to.

I hope to god I’m wrong, I really do. I really wish that everything everyone said about how if we all pay into the system, it’ll all get flushed around and make everything cheaper because we’ll have wonderful new levels of competition. But, I know better. You want to know why? Remember when they said that the credit card bill that took effect earlier this year would strengthen consumer protections against big banks? Yeah. How’s that working out?

Joshua Frank with the Center for Responsible Lending in Boston points out that bankers have already found ways to get around it. “The new law is not going to protect you from every trick and trap,” he warns.

For instance, the law does not cap interest rates or prevent card companies from closing accounts at will. They can still lower credit limits or raise minimum monthly payments with virtually no notice. And it does not limit issuers from imposing new fees or boosting current ones, such as cash advance and account transfer fees.

“For every fee that might disappear or get lowered there’s another fee lurking around the corner,” warns Adam Levin, chairman of Credit.com, a Web site that focuses on consumer credit.

Some banks now charge an inactivity fee, as high as $36 a year, if you don’t use the card. Some charge for a paper statement. Some have a minimum finance charge, meaning you could owe a couple of cents but be billed a couple of dollars.

Annual fees are being added to cards, and existing fees are going up. Foreign transaction fees are being increased and expanded. You could be charged as much as 4 percent for a purchase made in another country.

See, when businesses and people are used to making a certain amount of money per year and something changes that and causes a reduction in revenue, you have an income crisis and you fix it by finding more income. If you think health insurance companies are just going to roll over and let this slide by without a whimper, we’re all fooling ourselves.

Like I said, I hope I’m wrong and I’m sure in 30-40 years when we’ve adjusted we’ll be fine and we’ll be just as secure as we are today with Medicare and Social Security – not like those things are in any danger of insolvency.

Frankly, the real problem is that we know people (read: the government) has a shit ton of money and they blow it on shit no one cares about or wants. The things we do want and actually care about, we get shafted on. I do not believe my government acted in my best interest yesterday. They gave us another band-aid wrapped turd that’ll sit in the corner and smell for the next 50 years.

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