Young: Pizza, beer and health coverage
February 12, 2014
Wrong. Incorrect. Erroneous. Fallacious. Bogus.
Choose your modifier for the headline-a-palooza the other day that alarmed (much of) a nation.
Breathless were the reports: "Obamacare to cost 2.3 million jobs." It took many variations, through the Wall Street Journal, through UPI, Politico, and of course the foamy tea partisans of Fox News.
Wrong. Incorrect. Erroneous. Fallacious. Bogus. And in most cases, corrected.
How this happened when the report in question was printed in plain English — a currency to which all of the above subscribe — is hard to fathom. Except that some eyes are trained to claim catastrophe at every turn with the Affordable Care Act.
What the Congressional Budget Office report, "Slow Recovery of the Job Market," said in a most parenthetical way is that by 2017, 2.3 million may opt not to work because their health insurance needs will be met by the ACA.
That's about as far from "job cuts" as corn stalks are from corned beef.
Job cuts? Just the opposite. If and when these people remove themselves from the work force, it will open positions for those who need jobs.
Read all about it, but I'm here to say that the headline writers missed the bigger story.
The story happened in a pizza parlor.
At that place, between rounds of beer and a slice or three, a young lady I know purchased government-subsidized health insurance.
She's as hard a worker as anyone you know. She works in a flower shop, and barely makes ends meet. The first time I met this 30-something, she was doing landscaping at a friend's house to pay for her cat's veterinary bills.
As for her own medical care, well, she had no coverage. She is the embodiment of the uninsured working poor that the Affordable Care Act serves.
Well, she is uncovered no more.
The other night, she and a couple of friends huddled over her laptop in that pizza parlor, went to the state health exchange, and signed her up.
What a terrible development.
It wasn't easy. It was frustratingly complex. But she did it with a little help from her friends. We'll be careful not to include you among them, Sen. Ted Cruz.
Add one more person for whom the Affordable Care Act is a godsend, and why we aren't going back to the bad old days before someone in Washington cared about a national disgrace.
Here's the biggest reason: 12 million Americans.
The administration has reported that 3 million people have signed up at the exchanges and onhealthcare.gov. High? Low per projections? It's immaterial.
As a USA Today analysis points out, to calculate the ACA's cumulative effect one has to add in the health coverage from Medicaid expansion and older children who remain covered under their parents' policies are included, that's about 9 million people in sum.
That sum is the biggest reason why ACA can't and won't be repealed. But that's not all. Another big reason is that the competition set in place by ACA has had a moderating effect on rates and costs throughout the nation's health-care system. Abolishing it would result in a brutal premium spike.
What about people who lost cut-rate policies? They have options through the ACA. What about job losses when employers jettison rather than cover employees?
Here's what: This is a transformative moment in American history, just as when Social Security and Medicare became reality, just as when the minimum wage became law. Each carried costs that some people whose needs were met wanted to avoid. Each carried benefits that provided scant relief for people on the edge of desperation.
Yes, that's your headline. Transformative change does not come without discomfort, disruption, and confusion, particularly for a few headline writers.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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