Yes, it’s true. “The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the core of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, giving him an election-year triumph and preserving most of a law that would expand insurance to millions of people,” Bloomberg reports. Exciting news, right? But wait — “The justices, voting 5-4, said Congress has the power to make Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty. That requirement is at the core of the law, which also forces insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions.”
Those of us that have supported the idea of a national healthcare system all along have used the fact that insurers could deny folks with pre-existing conditions as a major argument as to why Obamacare is so important. But there’s a caveat that comes along with today’s decision: “The court limited the law’s extension of the Medicaid program for the poor by saying the federal government can’t threaten to withhold money from states that don’t fully comply.”
Okay, so let me get this right. According to the LA Times, “the government may impose tax penalties on people who do not have health insurance,” but it won’t “withhold money from states that don’t fully comply” by offering aid to people who need it? Cool, so like, nothing’s really different then, right?
Look, I am one of the many, many, many Americans who makes juuuuuuust enough money not to be considered destitute but who does not make enough money to live on. I have debt, I have no insurance, I work my butt off. As much as this is a victory in some ways, it’s not like the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare today suddenly turned capitalism on its head and made the dreams of the Occupy movement come to fruition. Now I’m just another broke lady without insurance who HAS to buy an insurance plan which will hopefully be affordable, or I’ll have to pay a tax penalty. I’d like to think I make so little I’d be given free healthcare (really what we all naively and blindly assumed Obamacare was promising to those of us, oh, under 50…) but I’m not going to hold my breath. Once again, we’ve set up a system where corporations and the government benefit and face no repercussions essentially by not complying with the part of the law that really matters: helping poor people stay well.
Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, joined four Democratic-selected justices to give the president a majority on a law that has divided the country along ideological and partisan lines throughout his presidency. Roberts, writing for the court, said Congress had the authority to impose the insurance requirement under its power to levy taxes. ”It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income but choose to go without health insurance,” Roberts wrote.
That’s me. I don’t have insurance, and I go to therapy every week. (The single most important health and life decision I’ve ever made!) I pay out of pocket for my sessions at a sliding scale rate. Once I’m forced to pay for insurance, no matter how affordable, I will presumably still have a co-pay for those sessions. What if the insurance rate plus the co-pay is actually more than I’m paying now? I can’t really afford it as is, but it’s been so essential to my recovery from a very traumatic marriage/divorce (not to mention the childhood that led me there) I see it as an important investment in my future and my daughter’s as well. Isn’t Obamacare supposed to be making things easier for people like me? I hope it does. I really hope it does.
I went to the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2009, and I remember people cracking jokes about how it was cool if you got hurt in Scotland because you can just walk into a hospital, be treated, and walk out without worrying about having to pay an astronomical bill. (Because there is no bill at all.) I realize America is too big probably to provide free healthcare for all of its citizens, because wealthy people just don’t want to pay those kinds of taxes, but I worry that Obamacare is going to end up hurting the people it’s supposed to help, charging lower middle class people an insurance rate they can’t afford. I mean – where are the details: who do we buy insurance from? How much can they charge?
David Horsey of the LA Times wrote this morning, “The Supreme Court is shaking up the political chessboard today by ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. “Obamacare” – and there is one player who will win no matter what the decision may be: the insurance industry.”
According to this helpful sheet put together by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, the individual mandate doesn’t apply to you if “the cheapest insurance available to you costs more than 8 percent of your income.” That would indicate to me that someone in my position could probably expect to spend 10% of their monthly income on insurance. But that’s a lot of money when you make what I do, and that’s for the cheapest plan with probably the worst coverage and the highest co-pays. Hooray!
I know I’m jumping the gun here, and I really should just wait and see what happens as things unfold. After all, I have until 2014 to figure all of this out. In the meantime, I’ll be hoping that the million dollar deal I’ve been waiting for comes through so that I’ll be able to afford therapy. Because God knows life sure is stressful when you’re broke.
Photo Credit: SEIU International/Flickr