What I Think About Obamacare

Better open the windows. It’s gettin’ political. 

I’m going to begin by saying I have not read the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If you have, 1. God Bless You. 2. I’d love your opinion on all this.

I have gotten my information and opinion just like we all do, through discussions among friends and family, personal reflection, a few lectures in college, wikipedia, and the media – which we all know is totally level headed and unbiased.

It’s important to establish that, all things aside (mainly the deficit), universal and/or affordable heath care is a good thing. Patient protection is a noble cause that is worth pursuit by our lawmakers until it is fulfilled. Obamacare is extremely ambitious, and attempts to meet this important and lofty goal. I think it’s taken us in the right direction by opening up serious discussions on the subject.

I’ll first try to let you know what I think about the individual side of Obamacare, then we’ll tackle the business side of it.

I think the individual mandate has gone okay so far. People are getting covered. Sure the website failures were embarrassing for the administration, but I really only have two problems with the individual side of Obamacare.

  1. Tax or Penalty? I’ll have neither please. Adding another tax is bad. I don’t dislike the tax because I think most forms of current tax are crippling to society and should be repealed (we might get to this on a later post), but because if you have truly affordable health care that people want to participate in, you shouldn’t need a tax to make people sign up for it. People should want health care because it’s a good idea, not because when you calculate a penalty it’s financially beneficial. It’s cheating by the administration IMO to claim any success when people are forced to sign up. It’s the same as saying “We now have the more insured drivers on the road than ever before.” Yeah, because when you get pulled over you get a ticket if you don’t have insurance. Similarly, you get a ticket when you fill out your tax return for not having health insurance. Moving on.
  2. People shouldn’t lose their insurance. Premiums for individuals are going to go up, that’s just going to happen when you try to expand care to the entire population, but nobody should be forced out of a plan they already like. The number of people who have lost their insurance depends on whether you ask FOX or MSNBC, but it’s happening.  Blame the insurance companies or Obama, I don’t know who. If people are forced out due to higher premiums, and have to check out the marketplace, that sucks, but understandable. Premiums go up. But nobody should completely lose coverage they like. Ever.

Oh the marketplace. I’m not going to talk about technological problems that should be, and hopefully will be, solved. The individual healthcare marketplace by itself is a FANTASTIC idea. It is the most American part of the entire bill. Companies competing for your business when you have access, freedom, and ability to compare plans. YES! COMPETITION! FREEDOM! AMERICA!

I think the marketplace would work beautifully without the last two pitfalls. Let’s get it working so we can see the impact! On to the business side.

By the way things are going, we aren’t going to see the impact of the employer mandate until Obama is out of office, but I can tell you right now it’s not going to be pretty. It’s already an absolutely brutal environment out there for small businesses (FICA taxes alone costs self-employed over 15%. Some industries have a profit margin of 2%. Good luck with that.). This isn’t looking like it’s going to help, no matter how many times you change the definition of “small business.”

I fundamentally disagree with most of the business mandate because it is taking away a fundamental freedom that businesses should have. Obamacare tells businesses it needs to provide a certain amount of health insurance to full time employees and it can only charge those employees a certain amount.

Think about it.

The federal government is telling American businesses: You must provide this service, and you must charge this price. Or we’ll fine you.

I don’t own a business yet, but I don’t think I’d take kindly to the government telling me what I need to provide and what I need to charge for it – regardless of the costs to me.

That’s my main beef with the business mandate, but there’s another nugget that I dislike, but also find a little amusing.

Obamacare places a 40% excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans – ones with premiums over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Every dollar over that amount costs $1.40. The funny thing about this is – think about it with me – What two groups of employees typically sacrifice salary for better benefits, many times including these Cadillac Plans? Unions and government workers. What two groups of employers almost universally support democrats? Exactly – unions and government workers. Obama threw some of his main supporters under the bus with this 40% excise tax –  which is a big reason he delayed this feature too (union bosses wanted him to put an exemption in for unions, but that’s pretty much blatant political collusion). The problem here is that a huge chunk of the revenue was supposed to come from this excise tax. The other problem is employers just simply stopped providing these plans to avoid the tax. Big problems people.

As much hooplah we’ve heard about Obamacare, I don’t think repeal is an option. People have already signed up and benefitted. Heck, I have benefitted. I’m able to free load off my parents’ insurance for another two years. Sweet deal. Thanks Obama. Seriously.

What we need to do is enhance the marketplace and make it work like, you know, a marketplace. When companies are competing fairly for our business, we all win. Significant changes need to be made on the employer side. I’m not sure if I even understand why the employers were messed with in the first place. Everyone who had insurance through their employer seemed happy. If you didn’t have it offered to you, well okay, go to the new fantastic fully functional marketplace and provide yourself and your family with a plan that works for you. Any time fines are involved, employers know they can charge a premium because you’re forced to buy. (Get it? Charge a premium? har har har political puns har har).

There are many other sides of this to consider, from doctors, to the baby boomers, to pre-existing conditions, but I just wanted to shine a little light on a few of the aspects.

In conclusion, real dialogue needs to happen in Washington to fix this law, and I truly believe it is fixable. Republicans needs to stop talking about defunding, and start talking about rewriting. Democrats are beginning to sense some major unintended consequences, and will deal before the midterm to keep seats.  If the president can change the law with a stroke of a pen, I hope congress shows the ability to with a stroke of good dialogue.

What will happen? I have no idea.

In conclusion, there are fantastic intentions, and some very good parts about Obamacare. We just simply need to alter what needs altering, and empower what needs empowering. If it were up to me, I’d drop the fines, enhance the marketplace, scale back employer mandates, and take baby steps. Which still may leave a funding problem, but we can get there people.

I know you have opinions on this one folks. Where did I go wrong? Please tell me. This civil dialogue is what keeps America going. But as of now, that’s what I think I think.

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Sochi: Sport, Scandal, Society.

The best part of the Olympics, in my opinion, began today with the hockey tournament. I love it because I love America and I love hockey, and I love when America actually cares about hockey.

But how will these Olympics be remembered: sport, scandal, or societal storylines?

Most would hope for sport – what happens on the field, er, I guess ice or snow. But when you think about it, of all the Olympics played in history, how many are actually remembered for excellence of the athletes? I can only think of two off the top of my head. Michael Phelps in 2008 (not Mark Spitz in Munich 1972, see later) , and the Miracle on Ice. I’m sure in Canada, it’s 2010 games, but nobody cares, Canada. One could even argue that the Miracle on Ice wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for circumstances outside the rink –  The Cold War, and the USA boycotting the Moscow Summer Games. As the quote from the HBO documentary about the game goes, “The circumstances surrounding the games were so extraordinary, it can never happen again.” – Al Michaels.

It takes something very extraordinary to an Olympics be remembered on the field. I can only see that happening if Russia or the US win the hockey in a thrilling game. Shawn White choked. Shani Davis choked.  MAYBE one could argue the tie in women’s alpine skiing will be remembered, but how many of you just thought to yourself “There was a tie in women’s skiing?”

Will the games be remembered due to scandal? Maybe. The outrageous cost of the games. The slum-like living situation for journalists, (or what they make seem like slum-like). The technical difficulty in the opening ceremony? It takes massive scandal to be remembered. Even the judges scandal of 2002 is kind of forgotten. The games that come to mind is the terrorism in Atlanta 1996, and Munich in 1972. Both of those are earth-shattering, life-ending scandals. I can speak for everyone in that we hope that doesn’t happen the least bit. There’s already been wind of a judge scandal in figure skating again, but likely won’t be remembered after the games.

How about the games being remembered for its impact on the world society? It’s possible. Putin wanted this to be Russia’s welcome party to the world society, and it will happen to some extent. It has shed some light on issues in Russia, mainly it’s treatment of homosexuals. I don’t think that’s going to have a huge impact, however. Those issues need more much than two weeks in order to gain enough traction to affect real change, especially in Russia.

Plenty games have been remembered for societal reasons. Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936, 1968 Black Power Salute, and China’s coming out party to the world in 2008.  There are a few things those games have that Sochi doesn’t. Firstly, they were all summer olympics, which is a much bigger games and spectacle. Secondly, the statements in ’36 and ’68  were done by the athletes, not protesters. Owens didn’t even do any explicit statement. He just kicked ass in front of Hitler. The Black Power salute was a simple gesture after they kicked ass in their sport.  In China’s case, idk I just haven’t gotten the same feeling from Sochi as a “Russian coming out to the world” party. Beijing was magical.

The only way this game will be remembered for societal reasons is if a Russian athlete wins a gold medal and instead of grabbing the Russian flag, they grab a rainbow flag.

In which case, I fear for their life.

My point is, these Olympics probably won’t be remembered in ten years. And if they are, it will probably be for something that happened outside the athletes’ control.  I had no intention on ending on this depressing point, but here I am. Does this mean we shouldn’t watch the Olympics or be excited for them? Not at all.

But I do think it’s time we stop spending over $51 Billion of taxpayer’s money on the games to impress the cameras. I think it’s time we let the sports do the talking. I think it’s time we stop  use the Olympics as a platform for political and social change. There’s so much good that comes from the games, why shift the focus to shortcomings of the world?

When the eyes of the world are watching, let them watch the athletes.

Will it happen in the future? Probably not.

That’s what I think I think.

USA ALL THE WAY