(Photo courtesy Pixabay)
I wonder how many people who are marching in the streets in favor of keeping Obamacare have purchased insurance off the Marketplace.
I have. For the past three years, in fact. And the year before that, I had coverage under the Medicaid expansion, which is the only part of Obamacare that I think is worth fighting to keep. It’s a matter of public health.
My Congresswoman, Cheri Bustos, recently said on the floor that repealing Obamacare won’t “make America great again,” it will “make America sick again.”
She’s great at sound bites. Cheri spent a decade as our local regional health system’s PR queen. She even offered me a job there once as corporate writer.
I’m not going to get into the scare tactics Cheri used in that minute-long speech I linked to above. It makes me sad that our local politicians think we Quad-Citians are fools that just gobble up their spoon-fed gobbledygook.
But I will tell you what my experience with Obamacare has been, speaking both as a health journalist and as one of the “hardworking Americans” Cheri represents in the 17th Congressional District (the one bordering scandal-plagued Aaron Schock’s district).
In 2014, I greatly benefited from Obamacare under the Medicaid expansion. I was working, but had just gotten back into the workplace after taking time off to care for my elderly father. I was being paid $75 per story for Healthline News. It took a while to build a name for myself as a health reporter and attract new, better-paying clients. The Medicaid expansion was a great thing, because it allows working people, with a modest income, to have affordable (free) healthcare.
I had to also apply for food stamps to get it (which I did not want or need, but that was part of “the rules”). One could argue the $12 per month in food stamps that came along with my Obamacare was inconsequential, but $12 per month times 12 months in a year times how many Americans (?) adds up fast. Why force acceptance of a benefit that someone doesn’t even want or believe that they need? That makes no sense and is a waste of money.
My first Marketplace plan offered little more than a monthly bill
The second year, 2015, I was making a little more money, and I purchased a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan off the exchange. Technically, I could have stayed on the Medicaid expansion, and the food stamps, once business write-offs were figured into my 2015 income. But I was proud to be off public assistance (although grateful that I got it when I needed it, and I don’t think anybody should be stigmatized for taking food stamps or Medicaid).
In 2014, I survived what I believe was an attempted homicide (it’s on the books as an assault) that left me with a PTSD diagnosis. The diagnosis was made almost exactly one year to the date of the assault, when I had a flashback of the incident. I immediately reported all I remembered to police, along with some other pertinent information. It’s not unusual for people with PTSD to have memories suppressed for a year or even longer, and it’s also not unusual to recall them around anniversary dates.
The flashback itself led to another horrifying experience – being stripped naked and thrown in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all, for two days. Congresswoman Cheri’s husband is our sheriff (he was appointed to the elected position after the previous sheriff was forced to resign in disgrace; it’s widely believed the previous sheriff was framed, allegedly for harassing a woman).
You can read about how and why I ended up in jail here. I’m still waiting for a public apology from the County of Rock Island.
The hospital system Cheri worked for, by the way, recently opposed construction of a psychiatric hospital in nearby Bettendorf. A board that grants “certificates of need” declined Strategic Behavioral Health’s request after both hospitals claimed we had enough beds with more on the way. This, despite testimony from the Scott County sheriff (on the other side of the river, who said he’s supposed to be running a jail, not a mental hospital), and numerous mental health advocates. Everyone here who is honest who works in mental health knows that our system on both sides of the river are a disgrace that are costing lives, even if they won’t admit it out of fear of losing their jobs. Those who claim otherwise are simply fooling themselves.
No, instead we just throw scared people with PTSD in jail around here and hold them there two days on no charges. Naked. In solitary. And taunt them in ways that will make a great book someday. I’m excited to get started on it!
Is this Rock Island County, or Soviet Russia? I’m still not sure sometimes.
The board that denied the “certificate of need” for the psychiatric hospital includes a retired employee of the hospital system Cheri worked for. His name is Bob Lundin. I always thought he was a nice guy when I did business with him as a reporter for the Quad-City Times. But talk about a conflict of interest. Most news reports never even mentioned he was retired from UnityPoint Trinity, which opposed construction of the hospital along with Davenport’s Genesis Medical System. You can read all about that outrageousness by clicking here. The board is comprised of several people with strong ties to both hospital systems that monopolize our community.
At any rate, my first year on my own with Obamacare cost me, gosh, about $150 per month I guess. My premium is about double that now. Not much more or less than what people who have coverage through their employer pay, I imagine. I’m just one person, of course. No dependents.
So that first year that I had Obamacare off the exchange, BCBS paid for two psychotherapy visits related to my PTSD diagnosis. I paid the rest, at a cost of $280 per month. You hear about how Obamacare has expanded mental health and addiction treatment access. That’s true to some degree, but it’s a charade in many ways, too. Just look at my situation. President Trump vowed last night to expand access to addiction treatment services. I hope he keeps that promise.
It goes without saying that I did not want Blue Cross Blue Shield for 2016 (although I have them now and so far it’s a great plan). But check out this piece I wrote in October 2015 – Blue Cross Blue Shield tried to enroll me again for 2016 even before open enrollment began. The buck-passing and jacked-up-edness (I just made that word up) involved in that incident was nothing short of hilarious.
Gross incompetence: Marketplace can’t find records of my insurance
The third year I had Obamacare, I purchased United Healthcare Silver Compass, considered a top tier plan, off the marketplace. UHC was a disaster from day one (although UHC was not always directly to blame…the state and federal bureaucracies created screw-ups, too). My pharmacy benefit got screwed up at the state level, but was rectified after I wrote about it. Click here to read that piece. Sadly, not everyone has a platform like I do. I wonder how many people have lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars due to ACA screw-ups, regardless of whether they were performed at the state or federal level.
Now, as I file my taxes for 2016, the exchange is claiming I did not have insurance for October, November or December and will have to pay a penalty. IN FACT, I got an email from the exchange in September (see below) telling me that if I was on target to make more, or less, than I thought I was going to make when I applied for my 2016 Marketplace insurance, that I needed to let them know.
Because I am honest (to a fault…at least that’s what my brother always said…”David, you tell on yourself”) I called the exchange and told them I was indeed having a better year than I expected. They assured me that I would continue to have the exact same UHC Silver Compass insurance, but that my subsidy would drop considerably. You can make up to $52,000 annually and still qualify for a subsidy.
Well, that’s not exactly what happened. They canceled Silver Compass and gave me a different UHC plan (that was substandard to Silver Compass and nothing but problems…co-pays went up, etc.). And yes, my subsidy plunged. Which was fine. My income was higher than I previously thought.
Let me tell you something else. All those jokes about “the death panels” that never happened? My psychologist had to have regular telephone conferences with the UBH (United Behavioral Health) psychologist to discuss the details of my case, as they felt my twice-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for my PTSD were unnecessary.
I am involved (as a victim) in two very serious criminal investigations (which I am certain involve all the same villains). I did not like my insurance company knowing my business. To me, this is somewhat akin to the death panels. Whatever happened to HIPAA? Actually, a personal injury lawyer here in Rock Island told me once that “HIPAA is a myth” and, in fact, doesn’t mean a darned thing. I can hear all the hospital employees launching rotten tomatoes at me now…I’m just saying what he said! And he has been known to get people lots of money!
So today the Marketplace told me they have no evidence of me being insured October through December. Therefore, my 1095 statement (which shows your subsidy and proof of insurance, and is required with your tax return) only will show the Silver Compass insurance of January through September. So in theory, I will have to pay a penalty.
Below, you will see the email welcoming me to my new plan in October. All my premiums were paid, each of the 12 months of 2016, and never was I uninsured.
Yes, Obamacare created jobs. Bureaucracies. More AFSCME employees. More layers of nonsense.
I wonder how many rainforests have been destroyed with all the paperwork associated with Obamacare. UHC pulled out of the 2017 exchange, and now I have BCBS again (and this time, so far, an AWESOME plan, paying 100 percent of my twice-weekly CBT sessions at the psychologist and $0 co-pay on my blood pressure and other meds).
But even though UHC pulled out of the exchange, I recently received a five pound, “Welcome to United Healthcare 2017!” book in the mail.
I could go on and on about the mailings, which never make any sense at all. And I’m a writer. It’s like they’re written in Chinese. Plus, they email you, too. Keeps people employed I guess, on your taxpayer dollar! Inefficient, “job-creating” bloat.
Two parties, two beauties representing 17th, 18th Congressional Districts
Lastly, let me talk to you about the 17th Congressional District. We are a polite people. A simple people. Hard-working people. We don’t talk much about politics. We generally believe what our politicians do simply has to be honest and what they tell us all true (though that confidence is fast, fast eroding around here).
The Congressional District right next door to us (the 18th Congressional District) once belonged to Aaron Schock. But the dashing young GOP Congressman now is facing criminal charges for using taxpayer money to decorate his office like Downton Abbey, among other things.
Peoria (the 18th Congressional District) is much like us simple folk in the Quad-Cities and Rockford – hard-working, mannerly, trusting. Too trusting.
Like Shock, our Congresswoman is a beauty – voted 8th most beautiful person on Capitol Hill, in fact! Yes, it’s true! You can read about it by clicking here.
It’s fine to not talk politics out of politeness. But please pay attention to your politicians and what they’re doing. Don’t blindly vote for one politician or another. And hold their feet to the fire. Always. Participate in the process. Dig beneath official news reports, because most of that comes from press release rewrites from the politicians themselves. Local media outlets have been slashed to the bone and don’t do the type of old-fashioned watchdog reporting anymore that is so essential to keeping our corrupt politicians honest.
Please. Ask questions. Call their offices when things upset you. Let them know you’re watching their every move as it pertains to honesty, ethics and being lawful.
I sure do.