A reader revives the thread with a new perspective:
For three days straight, a crew of two men has performed significant physical labor around our residence – drilling through brick and mortar, removing debris, and so much more. The toll on these guys’ bodies is beyond comprehension to a sedentary writer-type, who obsessively exercises to keep limber and burn calories and maintain a semblance of muscle tone.
For three days, one of the men complained regularly about his back pain. (Which certainly wouldn’t have been helped by carrying away our cast iron wood stove, lifting it onto the truck, off-loading it at the shop.) With a groan, he sat down to write up the final invoice. By now fully aware of his problem, I murmured sympathetically. He replied, “I had an MRI done a couple of years ago. It’s a disk. I need surgery.” I cranked up the sympathy. “I can’t afford it,” he continued matter-of-factly, “on my income. Not until I get my health insurance.”
I very nearly said something like, “Isn’t it great that it’s actually possible through the Affordable Care Act?” and was tempted to explain that next enrollment period comes up later this year.
I’m fairly well informed on the process; my husband’s workplace arranged for him to become a certified ACA advisor. All winter long he came home from the office with heart-warming news of how real, uninsured people were at least accessing what was previously unobtainable.
But, stifled solely by the crewman’s demographic characteristics, I said not a word. I could just tell this was not a fellow who would look favorably on Obamacare. And I didn’t want to introduce controversy or politics into what had been a pleasant temporary relationship.
Shortly before leaving, he spotted the framed photograph of me standing with President Obama, taken when he was a little-known candidate roaming through my First-in-the-Nation primary state. And his recognition prompted a rude comment that made me wish he’d had been as reticent about the president as I had been about the ACA.
When he and his cohort departed, I started to cry. Our entire exchange represented everything most depressing about perceptions of Obama and the intent of the law he – and the Congress, even if only a portion of it – brought into being. For the good of people like the man who needs back surgery to continue in his job, but can’t afford it. And who, until recently, wouldn’t have had a hope of getting insured.
Most of the time I do Know Hope. I’m hard-wired that way. But today there’s a terrible disconnect in my optimism.
Update from a reader:
Allow me to bring your reader’s experience with a temporary worker in her home a bit closer to home. As a small business owner with a long-standing (since age 17) preexisting condition who has had to buy my own insurance, the ACA has been a godsend. We went from our premium costing nearly $2,000 a month for our family of four to $1,100/month with much better coverage. And now I’m about to enter a job transition where I might not have an income for a few months. The ACA has made that much easier. A major health crisis would be horrible obviously, but one happening if I didn’t have insurance, it’d be financially devastating. I now can know we are covered and can afford to be even in job transitions.
But my sister doesn’t see this. She complains constantly about Obama and the ACA – complaints that more often than not have no basis in fact. She works several part-time jobs and her income, just above minimum wage, is volatile. She refuses to even look for an insurance plan on our state’s very good exchange. I am fairly certain she would find one, with subsidies, that would cost her under $100/month for silver plan coverage, barely $30 for bronze, coverage that could make her life healthier and more financially secure. She has several pre-existing conditions herself and current health issues she really should take care of now.
And it breaks my heart she refuses to do so out of some misplaced anger based on “Fox News” lies. The Fox News Republicans have done a great disservice to this nation in so many ways.
(Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)