I’m lucky. In my six and a half decades of life I’ve only been hospitalized twice. I had my tonsils out when I was 5, and in my 40s I contracted pneumonia and bronchitis simultaneously, which was no picnic.
But I’ve also run up my share of doctor bills for more minor stuff. There was the time I had to have my broken nose reset by a doctor with a pair of pliers, and my wife once drove me to an emergency room after I was swarmed by ground wasps that stung me about 40 times in 15 seconds while I was mowing the backyard. You know, the usual stuff.
Meanwhile, my wife has been blessed in bringing children into the world. The deliveries went off without a hitch, but they still generated hefty medical bills. Then there’s the cost of taking care of your children once they’re born, with the usual assortment of broken arms, burst appendixes and weekend earaches.
Thank God for health insurance.
President Trump, along with congressional Republicans, has made it very clear that repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is Job No. 1 now that the inauguration is in the rear view mirror. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they come up with to replace it.
Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010, when both the House and Senate were under Democratic control.
The idea was simple; possibly noble: Is it right, Congress asked, for a sizeable portion of the world’s greatest nation to be afraid that providing basic care for a child’s high fever or broken bone might drive mom and dad to the brink of financial disaster?
That’s a tough spot to be in, and all of us have seen how it plays out. Stop and think — how many parents do you know who at some point have skipped a trip to the doctor for themselves or their children because they just couldn’t afford it?
Even the families with low-cost insurance from the Obamacare exchanges often face crippling deductibles. Still, in theory, some coverage is better than none.
But wait — there’s more! As anyone who’s been in the full-time workforce for the last 20 years knows, rising medical costs have forced companies to provide less insurance to employees, or the same coverage at sharply increasing rates. Many businesses are turning to part-time workers to cope with their own rising expenses to insure their staff. Part-timers usually aren’t as reliable, but at least you don’t have to give them all those costly full-timer benefits.
I’m not trying to sound anti-business. I understand the simple cruelty of competition. When the guy down the street is reducing his operating expense by switching to part-timers, you have to think about it. You’re not going to sell more widgets with a neon sign in your window that says “The home of higher prices because we have more full-time employees receiving great health insurance!”
Where is it all going? By 2020, which isn’t far away, it’s estimated that 46 percent of workers will not get insurance through the work place. Instead, nearly half of us will be working in the so-called gig economy, making our living with multiple part-time jobs and constantly shifting business relationships. When it happens, where will our half-nation of independent contractors go to insure themselves and their families?
But that’s all for the future. For now it’s a new horse race and we’re all on the edge of our seats watching the ponies break from the gate. Personally, I hope the new Washington Republican trifecta can get this right, and figure out how to help those of us who just want to raise our families without that nauseating financial fear triggered by a toddler’s late night fever of 103.
The Democrats had their chance, God bless ‘em for trying. But now, Republicans, it’s up to you. Fix it or replace it — it’s your call. But please get on with it. A very nervous nation of mothers and fathers are waiting for you to show us all how it’s done.