Don’t hate on Obamacare

Why is Obamacare so unpopular with Washington Republicans that they continue their obviously futile maneuvering to kill or delay the Affordable Care Act?

First, some members of Congress hate the President so much that they automatically hate everything he likes.

Second, there are members who oppose Obamacare because of the traditional Republican opposition to  “big government.” (Put it in quotes only because no one has ever defined “too big.” They can’t describe it, but they know it when they see it.)

But there is probably a third, even greater, reason why so many Americans are telling Republican members of  Congress that they don’t want Obamacare. It’s because people  hate insurance in general.

We buy it, but we don’t like buying it. In some cases, it’s money we spend to protect ourselves from catastrophes that aren’t likely to happen. We buy property insurance even though the statistical likelihood that our house will burn down or disappear down a sinkhole is very small.

We buy auto insurance to protect ourselves from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. Logically, we know we need it, but when we cruise down the street we don’t glory in the excellent coverage we have. If we glory it all, it’s because we have a hotter or faster car than the guy in the next lane. No one turns their head to stare when a well-insured driver goes by.

Are you going to wind up wrapped in your deliriously happy spouse’s arms if you beef up your life insurance? Would you get a better response if you brought home  that big-screen TV or a jewel-encrusted necklace?

Who even reads their insurance policies? Most Americans take those over-sized envelopes that comes in the mail and stuff them  into the same drawer where they keep all the other the information they may need someday, but in all likelihood will never again see. Like all those years’ worth of back income tax returns and the warranty for the washer and dryer.

But the much, much bigger reason that people hate insurance because it often sucks — no matter how much we pay for it.

The idea behind insurance is that the carrier pools our money with a lot of other peoples’ money. Not everyone’s house is going to burn down this year. Not everyone is going to be in a car accident or get sick. By pooling money from lots of people, the insurance company can pay claims and still make money.

The reason insurance sucks is that  it doesn’t work that way in reality.  When we turn in a claim on our car, we know that our rates are going to rise until we have paid  back every last nickel the insurance company paid to have our car fixed.  That’s not insurance in the classic sense  — it’s a short-term loan from the insurance company!

Who hasn’t had a bad experience with insurance?  Your rates go up when you do nothing wrong and somebody hits you! Your rate will likely go up if you move into  a zip code where the insurance company thinks the drivers are worse than in your old neighborhood. If your credit rating goes down, your insurance rates go up. You may not think your old bills have anything to do with your driving skills, but the insurance carriers don’t agree.

Even worse are the surprises that come with medical bills. Deductibles, co-pays, lifetime caps that are reached in the midst of cancer treatment. Coverage that is denied due to a pre-existing condition.  Who knew that stomachache you had in 2008 was actually the birth of a gallstone? A $5,000 cap on mental health services? What do you do when your kid needs $30,000 worth of drug rehab?

The problems with pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps will be ended by Obamacare.  The dependence on insurance being provided by your employer goes away too, which means that people who are 10 to 15 years away from Medicare won’t have to hang onto their jobs by their fingernails, just for the  insurance.

What’s wrong with Obamacare? Even most Republicans don’t want to repeal all of it. They want to keep the parts that people already know and like. In addition to the end of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps, the Affordable Care Act also allows parents to continue paying for their children’s coverage until they are 25, and it eliminates the  “donut hole” in seniors’ prescription drug coverage.

So maybe it’s time for Americans — even Republicans — to ask themselves just what it is about Obamacare that they hate. Could it be that you really don’t hate the Affordable Care Act? Could it really be just the insurance industry that you hate? Isn’t it true that just thinking about insurance gives you a headache?

Everyone past 40 has  had at least one bad experience with the current insurance system, but who’s  had a bad experience with the Affordable Care Act? Why not give it a shot?

We may not like the individual mandate, but Americans deal with mandates all the time. Your mortgage company mandates full coverage on your house.  The state mandates a certain amount of auto insurance even for the safest of drivers.

And who doesn’t burn just a bit over the extra money we have to spend to protect ourselves  from un- and under-insured drivers? Why aren’t those people more responsible?

By making affordable health insurance available to everyone, and by requiring everyone to have it, it makes “those people” more responsible for themselves. How is that bad?

America was built on individual responsibility. Historians called it “rugged individualism.” Isn’t it time to give it a try with health insurance?

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