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UnAffordable Health SCare

By Mary Summerbell

I haven’t had health care for over sixteen years. No. Let me reword that. I haven’t had health care insurance coverage for over sixteen years. This rephrasing takes us straight to a core issue of this rant – the misleading language of this and, in my opinion, most – government policies and programs.

The Affordable Care Act is so deceptively named. It is not about direct health care – or any kind of care. It’s about insurance. Yes, it’s about insurance coverage for health care, but that’s an extremely important distinction. It’s not just syntax. It’s meaningful nomenclature. And tricky politicians know this. They are clever folks.

What if the federal government had insurance programs for other aspects of our lives? What would they be named? The Budget Home Care Program? The Thrifty Nickel Business Care Bill? The Bargain Car Care Act? The Cost Less Pet Care Amendment? Uncle Sam’s Ample Natural Disaster Care Plan? I’m belaboring a point, but I feel so angry about the intentionally misleading redundant deception of it all that it brings out the sarcastic nasties in me.

Have a government health insurance program. But, come on. Be honest. Call it what it is – The Like It or Not, Affordable or Not, What Choice Have You Got Federal Health Insurance Act. The Limited Choice Act, for short. Because except for buying private insurance or paying out of pocket, it’s all we’ve got. So don’t try to fool us by making it sound like a great discount deal on real care. Calling it Affordable Health Care deliberately gives the false impression that it is some kind of reasonably priced health care service.

Making health care truly more affordable could mean decreasing the cost of health care products and services, increasing government health care benefits, varying health care costs according to income, having health care professionals volunteer or donate services to underserved people, creating public education programs for preventative health care to reduce potentially costly health problems, developing community support networks, and/or any number of other creative, realistic options and possibilities that current authorities don’t seem interested in considering or implementing.

Instead, the government requires us all to have health care coverage – at their preordained prices and parameters. Which means that in the United States it is now illegal to be without health insurance – a crime if we don’t sign up – punishable by fines that increase if we continue to opt out.

Which is just what I’ve decided to do. I’ve thought about this – considering it from a financial perspective and as a form of political protest or civil disobedience.

I did the math. I asked a financial adviser many detailed questions about what the expense – and benefits – would be for me to get Affordable Care. With the government assistance for my income bracket, (thanks for the offer), and with the maximum deductible allowed, my cost for Affordable Care is about three hundred dollars a month. That means I would pay three hundred dollars times twelve months, which is three thousand six hundred dollars, plus the six thousand dollar deductible – a total of nine thousand six hundred dollars annually – before Affordable Care would pay one single penny for any actual health care for me.

Add to this the fact that most of my current health care is wholistic and preventative and is not covered under Affordable Care. My primary care physician is a naturopathic doctor. Not covered.  I wear glasses and get regular eye exams. Not covered. And dental check-ups. Not covered. I am in better than good health. I eat gluten free, and weigh less now than I did in high school. I exercise moderately, and am socially and intellectually active. I have low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and great bone density. I almost never drink alcohol or even soda pop. I don’t smoke. The only drugs I use are an inhaler, as needed for asthma and, rarely, aspirin or an antibiotic.

I have some hearing loss, and thyroid issues. I’ve had mental health challenges that I balance now through lifestyle changes and spiritual practice. But all things considered, I’m a pretty healthy old gal. And sensible. So why would I spend almost ten thousand dollars a year for – nothing, except a soother for my worry nerves? The miser in me won’t let me do it. The only health care insurance I want is for the possibility of accident or injury – catastrophic coverage. Not an option in this system.

I can hear some of you saying, “But it could happen to you.” Yes, it could happen to me. I’m not immune to life’s calamities. But I refuse to live in fear of what might happen when clearly l’m likely to be all right.

I asked a woman I know, a competent, successful, self-employed professional, if she was going to apply for Affordable Care. She said, “No.” I asked her what she would do if something happened and she had a lot of medical expenses. She said, “Then ‘I’ll be bankrupt.” That simple. And that’s me, too. I don’t think this is denial or a head-in-the-sand mentality. There is a principle here that is worth aspiring to. It is the principle of living from love, not fear.

The Affordable Care Act is based on a certain number of healthy people paying in to create a money base to pay out to those who are not healthy. The financial planner I talked to told me that the only people rushing to sign up for Affordable Care were those with serious or multiple health problems, already paying hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for health care coverage, wanting to pay less. It is a fear-based system. The government wants me to be so afraid something bad might happen to me that I will buy something I don’t need that pays for people, many who have not taken care of themselves, who are seriously unhealthy.

No, I won’t. I see the current system as unfair – certainly not rewarding or offering any motivating incentive to those who are most healthy or striving to be healthier. So I’ll pay the fines as my contribution to the ailing masses. But until there is a tiered system where people are grouped according to levels of health risk, and I’m included in a group of reasonably healthy people, I’m not interested in government health care insurance.

I realize that the Affordable Care Act will benefit many people. Maybe most of those who had no health insurance before. I think it is a step forward in the evolution toward universal health care. As a result of Affordable Care guidelines pre-existing conditions can no longer limit health care coverage. And there are no annual or lifetime payment limits on Essential Health Benefits. I like these changes. It’s just that Affordable Care is still too much one-size-fits-all to fit me well.

I have worked hard to have good health and I continue to discipline myself to healthy lifestyle choices. I will keep coming from love, which begins with self-love and self-care. I choose to take the thousands of dollars that my government wants me to pay for psychological reassurance and use it to buy actual health care products and services – naturopathic and homeopathic appointments, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage, Reiki, energy and body work, light, color, sound and aroma therapies, natural, fresh, whole foods and herbs, supplements, tinctures, remedies, books and magazines and classes that teach me more and more about being healthy.

I want real care for my health care dollars. I intend to spend my money on current health care needs, on the reality of ongoing wellness rather than the possibility of injury or sickness. Foolish or wise, or otherwise, that’s my personal Affordable Health Care Plan.

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