Thanks Obama, and thank you Democrats
A month ago, I lost my job. I got notified on the 31st of March. Today is your last day, goodbye!
Just like that, I was not only out of a job and without an income, but when the clock struck midnight, I no longer possessed health insurance.
Had I been let go on the 1st of the month, my company would have had to cover my health insurance for the rest of the month.
From a business perspective, it made a lot of sense for them to do it the way they did it. They were as fiscally responsible as they could have been,
From a human perspective, however? Quite the d*ck move.
So that same day of being laid off, I had to figure out how the heck to get insured again, especially considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s quite unfortunate having health insurance tied to employment given the situation, but with a bit of research I found out I wasn’t completely out of luck.
COBRA and the Open Market
I discovered that there exists a program (COBRA) where I could remain on my current (company) health insurance plan for a mere $1000+ per month (as a healthy young adult with no preexisting conditions).
The one bit of utility this offers is that you can retroactively insure yourself (as far as two months from your last day of employment) should the worst happen and you end up in the hospital, and you haven’t yet purchased another health insurance plan. Otherwise, it’s comically expensive.
Since I went through the “qualifying event” of losing employment, I have the magical ability to enroll on a new health insurance plan outside of the annual November “open enrollment” period available to all Americans. So I headed over to my state’s healthcare exchange in search of a better deal.
For context, there are 4 tiers of plans offered on health care exchanges: gold, silver, bronze, and catastrophic.
Gold plans have the highest premiums (amount paid per month) with typically, the lowest deductibles (your out of pocket amount on health care before your insurance company takes care of the rest.
Catastrophic plans are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Low monthly premiums, with very high deductibles that are typically only reached when something “catastrophic” happens to you, (a day long hospital visit, for example).
In my state, the best catastrophic plan had a monthly deductible of $100 per month, while the best gold plan had a monthly deductible of $300 per month.
Both were far better options than continuing my existing company health insurance coverage through COBRA.
But there was another, superior option.
My mother works full time, and her health insurance covers both her and her husband, my father.
I called her up the day after I lost my job, she made call to her insurance company, and boom.
Just like that, I was insured again, and on a gold level plan, for only $60 a month.
The Affordable Care Act
This was only possible thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law about a decade ago.
On the open market, an equivalent plan was $300 per month, rather than the $60 per month I’m paying as an additional member on my mother’s insurance plan.
A difference of FIVE TIMES!
So lucky me. Thanks Obama, and thank you to every politician in the House and Senate to vote for the Affordable Care Act.
Thank you for raising the age children can be on their parent’s health insurance plans. Compared to the gold plan on the public market, I’ll be saving almost $3000 per year.
And I have the peace of mind to know that if I happen to require hospitalization due to COVID-19, at the very least, I won’t be bankrupted by it.
I’m thankful as heck for this peace of mind, but can’t help but think it’s a little bit unfair.
Should someone be in my exact same position, but perhaps their parents are deceased, or out of work, they’re out of luck. Additionally, someone older than 26 has no ability to hop back onto their parents’ plan.
If they want health coverage as good as me, they’ll have to buy it on the open market and pay 5 times the price that I’m paying for it.
The Public Option
So why isn’t there another option, perhaps an insurance option provided by the federal government, a public option, available to all who want it?
Why isn’t the government allowed to compete in the general insurance market, forcing further competition and efficiency in health insurance companies and markets? At the very least, government involvement as a payer in the healthcare market would drive down cost, which is exorbitantly higher in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
Surely, such a plan, a public payer system wouldn’t magically fix everything that’s wrong with healthcare in the United States. Healthcare outcomes wouldn’t magically improve. But if a public option was available, and it was more affordable than the private insurance out there, people would inevitably join that plan.
While healthcare itself wouldn’t be affected from a public payer option, healthcare services would become more affordable for a large percentage of the population. People would be more willing to seek care and go to the doctor as cost would be less of a barrier.
It turns out The United States was one single Senate vote away from enacting a public option back in 2009. There were 58 Democrats for the inclusion of a public option, 1 Democrat Independent for it (Bernie Sanders), and 1 Democrat Independent against it (Joe Lieberman).
Senate Republicans were a united front against a public option.
To get the Affordable Care Act through the Senate, and into law, Democrats had to appease Joe Liberman. They did so by removing the public option from the bill.
The bill consequently passed the Senate and House.
On March 23rd, 2010, the Affordable Care Act was officially signed into law by President Barack Obama.
And thanks to provisions with law, I was able to seamlessly hop onto my mother’s health insurance after losing my job.
It was quite a shock to lose my job, and therefore my health coverage in the snap of a finger. I’m thankful for politicians 10 years ago allowing young people to hop back on their parent’s plans when an event such as job loss occurs.
If worse comes to worse during this pandemic, at least I know bankruptcy is off the table.
I’m still adamant that not having a public option is a huge mistake. Competing with the federal government as an insurer would force private insurers to improve their plans, cut costs, and improve their efficiency and healthcare administration in general.
Medicare For All Who Want It?
Ten years later, health care was a hot topic in this year’s Democratic Presidential Primary. Bernie Sanders has always been pushing the envelope, and was adamant about Medicare For All.
Pete Buttigieg took an approach that was much more likely to make its way through the House and Senate, advocating for a deficit neutral, fully paid for “Medicare For All Who Want It” plan.
Joe Biden approached the issue with Buttigieg’s messaging, advocating for his signature “Medicare for All Folks Who Want It” plan.
A decade ago, the United States was one vote away from the enactment of a public option. That proposal failed because 1 Senate Democrat, and 40 Senate Republicans, opposed it.
In 2020, regardless of who the president is, a public option is not occurring until there are enough Democrats in the House and Senate to vote “yes” on such legislation. The differences among Democrats on the issue of healthcare are minuscule, while the differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue are stark.
I’m gracious for the Affordable Care Act, and the direct benefits it’s had on me as a young and newly unemployed person.
And thank you to the 58 Senate Democrats, the 2 Senate Independents, and the 219 House Democrats who voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010
Thank you for voting yes on legislation aimed at improving the lives of all Americans. You’ve had a direct positive impact on my mental and physical health and well-being amidst this pandemic, and amidst my loss of employment and ensuing loss of health coverage.
I hope a public option is on the table in the future.
Someone my age (any age really) should be able to have the same piece of mind that I do right now, amid this pandemic.