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Wednesday, July 3, 2013
“There is no free lunch.” Never has any axiom been used so gratuitously to misrepresent costs than when this comment is spoken to discredit Obamacare.
America’s current failure to secure health care for its poor and its infirm eschews responsibility to meet the very costs of national health care these people call a free lunch. We must pay together for America’s general health or we will all suffer individually for our vicious spite toward our fellow citizens. Their miseries will haunt our national conscience.
And spite it is to refuse the Affordable Care Act by claiming it costs too much. One measure of a nation’s moral fiber is how that country treats its poor and its sick. Yet I hear from my neighbors every day of some “moocher” down the road who is without work and devoid of hope, wanting a free lunch.
“He wants me to pay his doctor’s bills,” my neighbors tell me. The irony? Many of these same neighbors are on Medicare or Veterans Affairs benefits. Or they have group insurance through their employers.
Neither of these methods of insuring health care is free either, but I cannot convince my neighbors of that fact. I get blank stares, as if I am the “low information” dummy. They earned their health care, they say. I agree. And so does every other neighbor as an American.
Refusing to enroll in Obamacare will cost us more than joining the plan. The train wreck coming our way will be the $53.3 billion increase in uncompensated care hospitals will incur and state and local governments will have to pay if the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act results in projected increases in America’s uninsured. After all, as the champions of “no free lunch” know, unpaid hospital bills will flow downhill to all of us one way or another. We’ll all pay through higher insurance premiums or through greater co-pays because hospitals will charge everyone with insurance to cover uninsured patients.
Uninsured Americans visit their doctors less frequently for treatable conditions when charges would be low. When their ailments become chronic and critical, these same people have no choice but to look for care, often through emergency rooms, which charge higher fees than for a visit to a doctor’s office. Recent studies show 48.6 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance.
According to the Center for American Progress, we have a hidden tax on health insurance that amounted to $410 per average individual premium and $1,100 per average family premium in 2009. In 2013, the cost shift is estimated to be approximately $480 for an individual policy and $1,300 for a family policy.
I realize paying any taxes is anathema to some. I get that. I wish we could go back to paying the doctor five bucks for an office visit — or $100 at current rates. But we’ve created a complex health care system with layered expenses that makes self-pay impossible for most people. I’d rather pay accredited taxes to reduce a costlier hidden tax while delivering America from this disgraceful disregard for our sick neighbors.
But I don’t want to argue solely on costs. Arguing expenses throws deceptive statistics at the issues and ignores national conscience. It’s a vicious strategy disguised as virtue. We must care for the sick in Virginia and America.
For those who say extending Medicaid to low-income families does not result in better health, I say come to my neighborhood, Wise County, July 19-21 when the Remote Area Medical Expedition brings dental, vision and general medical services to the Wise fair grounds.
The annual clinic of 1,500 volunteers treats thousands of low-income, uninsured Americans for free. Yet free clinics are not enough and not the answer. One visit a year for health care from volunteers only demonstrates America’s dereliction for suffering neighbors.
Tell those people waiting in line for hours to receive one crucial treatment each year that Medicaid is a shell game. Tell them we cannot reform Medicaid and rid its abuses. Tell them we should not even try.
When so many Americans suffer because of a failure in our health care system, we all suffer. Have compassion. The “moocher” down the street may say to you, “One day your soul may be in my soul’s stead.”
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