EDITORIAL: You owe it to yourself to check the facts

By Patric Hedlund Editor of The Mountain Enterprise

So…I’ve been watching this circus in Washington D.C. and can’t help but wonder how risking the credit-worthiness of our country can be considered a valid political tactic for responsible legislators.

Shouldn’t it be unthinkable to destabilize the still-fragile economic recovery of an entire nation? This is one of those moments when national events have definite local impact.

You probably work hard to maintain your own credit rating and know why that matters to us as individuals. If the U.S. government looks like it is going to default on even one payment as this drama rolls to its next phase this month, global investors are likely to dump U.S. Treasury bonds. Interest rates on new bonds would go up, raising rates on all kinds of credit. Car loans, mortgages and business loans will all cost more. Some analysts say we could see the kind of credit freeze we saw after the financial collapse from which we are still trying to heal. We are making progress. The federal deficit is at its lowest point since 2008. Medical costs have stopped their runaway rise.

Should politicians in quest of special interest money and Tea Party votes have a right to risk causing so much new pain to everyone else? Why is this kind of stunt not instant political suicide?

These maneuvers (supported by Congressman and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy) are a desperate attempt to cripple the Affordable Care Act before people have a chance to find out for themselves what it really is. It is a law—not a bill—passed four years ago. It has been twice ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Online market exchanges for Americans to begin comparing health plans and enrolling in upgraded health coverage at affordable rates opened this week. To be listed, policies must provide substantial coverage and be free from the “pre-existing condition ‘gotcha’ clauses” that have caused so much grief to so many of our friends, families and neighbors in the past.

But killing the Affordable Care Act is an obsession for this congress. They have voted 37 times to defund it—an exercise with no practical benefit to ordinary citizens but lucrative for politicians with hands out for campaign donations from insurance industry lobbyists.

Put yourself into the handmade, calfskin loafers of Aetna Insurance Company’s CEO Mark Bertolini. His annual paycheck tripled to $36.36 million dollars in 2012 (yes, that is for one year—not including his $11.1 million in stock awards based on the company’s performance). According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April 2013, multimillion dollar annual paychecks have become commonplace for numerous executives at Aetna. This kind of excess occurs at other health insurance companies in the U.S. also. Why wouldn’t these insurance executives fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo in American healthcare?

Why wouldn’t they hate the new requirement that 80% of our health premiums be spent on providing healthcare services or the companies must refund the excess to customers?

Just because the major cause of bankruptcy for middle class people in the U.S. is unexpected medical bills, why change anything?
Just because Aetna and others have a business model that doubles and triples rates year after year and then —when customers become sick and receive an inconvenient diagnosis—they are dumped, left without coverage, leaving families destitute and in despair at their most vulnerable moment. But why should anything be changed?

Let’s just ignore those parts of the equation, Bertolini says.

Now the only arrow left in the quiver of the insurance companies is fear. They are pumping brute force dollars into disinformation, bombing the public with billboards and TV spots and internet campaigns to get Americans to hate and fear health care reform before it begins.

The companies—and freshman Senator Ted Cruz—have a fear themselves: their fear is that once American families begin to understand the Affordable Care Act they will also begin to wonder how they ever lived without it, just like Medicare and Social Security.

Keeping people confused to get them to vote against their own self-interest has worked in the past. Cruz hopes it will work again, while CEOs like Bertolini just laugh all the way to the bank.

It is criminal that some states are trying to keep their own citizens from learning about their rights for better healthcare under the Affordable Care Act by blocking access to facts.

Fortunately, California leads the way in making information available. Those who sign up by Dec. 15 will be covered starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Exercise your rights. Find out for yourself.

Go to www.coveredca.com and plug in your numbers. No name is required. Just find out for yourself whether you can benefit from the new healthcare marketplace exchange.

Tax credits are available to those with incomes between $11,490 and $45,906 for an individual, and between $23,550 and $94,200 for a family of four.

There is also a tax deduction for medical insurance for the self-employed. Have a look.

This is part of the October 4, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.