Health Care & Teabaggers: the War Against an Abstraction

by Bruce Webb

Whence Teabaggery?

Opponents of Health Care Reform vow to keep up their efforts and sweep Republicans to victory in November. But where do they take their stand? Up to now they have been opposing potential legislation that existed mostly in their own imagination: Socialized Medicine, Obamacare, Government Bureaucrats between You and Your Doctor. But now that the die is cast, because in the bigger picture the reconciliation bill is just tinkering around the edges, what will actually change for the average Teabagger?

Will they have to get government approval to see a doctor? Well no. Will there be dramatic changes in their out of pocket expenses? Well no, if anything the change will be in the other direction. Will insurance or the hospital start denying them categories of care? Well no, same thing. The fact is that if you already have insurance, and from the looks of most of the Teabag crowd they already do, you will see zero change between now and November. At least negative change.

Will the passage of Obamacare put us on the path to Socialized Medicine? Well maybe, personally I believe that the changes in this bill will over the long-term drive change in that direction. But will anyone notice any big changes in the interim? Well no. And what changes they do notice will be positive, at least in the short run, because the sweeteners in the bill are front-loaded. More under the fold.

I know a young bartender in a Chinese restaurant that has a congenital condition in her leg. Nothing particularly disabling but enough to prevent her from buying insurance in the private market, like almost everyone in the hospitality industry except workers in big hotels she is on her own, if she gets sick enough to need to see a doctor it means cash payment at the Walk-In Clinic or a trip 20 miles North to the only Free Clinic in our area. Now if she gets really sick she is lucky enough to live in a city where the two main hospitals are operated by the Sisters of Providence who have an excellent record of writing off the costs of hospital stays for those who can’t afford to pay, God Bless the Nuns, but unless that case of flu has progressed to pneumonia my bartender is relying on tips to pay off the doctor.

Well under this bill she has some near immediate options. It establishes a High Risk Pool plan which would allow her to buy insurance that would cover her congenital condition and any illness that would require hospitalization. Given her income level she might not be able to afford the unsubsidized premiums, but then she has family that would probably help if the interim, her Dad has a new job as a government lawyer in DC and could probably throw some dollars her way until the Exchange and its subsidies kick in, whereas right now she couldn’t get insurance coverage at any price. And she is not alone here, I am in that same category, insurance companies would simply laugh if I applied. Under this new bill and right away, if you apply for insurance through a private company and are denied, or are offered insurance at an unaffordable rate you will be eligible for the new High Risk Pool. Yes it will be expensive and no maybe you won’t be able to afford it normally but if it comes right down to it that insurance will be available.

I suppose there may be a teabagger or two who doesn’t know anyone in the position of my bartender friend or me, who doesn’t know someone working in a service job or at a store making too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for insurance. Maybe some of these people have never walked past a collection jar on the counter raising funds for an otherwise unaffordable operation for some local kid, never heard an appeal for donations for a fellow church-goer, but somehow I doubt it, when you lower this to the concrete level it is not all about giving health care to brown people in the inner city, in fact many of those people have access to health care, it is about people they rub shoulders against every day.

The Republican Party is betting that its supporters will remain white-hot over an abstraction that will have little to zero impact on their own lives but will have huge positive impacts on people in their own communities. If you are middle class and insured you will probably see no changes at all in the next six months, on the other hand the waitress down at the cafe might be able to finally enroll in a health plan. Or you might finally be able to consider the possibility of an early retirement rather than holding onto your job waiting for Medicare to kick in. How long will Boehner and Beck, themselves wealthy white men with health care paid for, be able to whip people up over abstractions like ‘Obamacare’ in the face of day to day reality?