The Wall Street Journal now features an updated version of The Kenyan Cataclysm.
My mother is not one to seek attention by complaining, so her recent woeful Facebook post caught my eye: “The poor get poorer.” It diverged from the more customary stream of inspirational quotes, recipes and snapshots from her tiny cottage in Pierce County, Wash.
What’s the problem? Obamacare, again. Though you might be surprised to know exactly how the poor woman got ‘bankrupted.’
“I just received a notice: ‘In order to comply with the new healthcare law, your current health plan will be discontinued on December 31, 2013.’ Currently my premium is $276 and it is a stretch for me to cover. The new plan . . . are you ready . . . projected new rate $415.20. Now I can’t afford health insurance.”
Yeah screw your old insurance company, lady. Get on the government’s exchange and find yourself an affordable policy. Well God help her, she tried. She went to the Washington state website and she applied. And that’s when it happened:
She entered her personal and financial data. With efficiency uncommon to the ObamaCare process, the site quickly presented her with a health-care option.
That is not a typo: There was just one option—at the very affordable monthly rate of zero. The exchange had determined that my mother was not eligible to choose to pay for a plan, and so she was slated immediately for Medicaid.
What the . . ?
She couldn’t believe it was true and held off completing the application.
“How has it come to this?” . .
FREE healthcare. Sweet Jesus, no! Until then, Mom apparently had no idea she was one of the Working Poor. Hey if a Republican recession lasts long enough even she could end up in bad shape. And she did, in Washington. But now Mom will get both far better coverage and that hard-earned $276 back. Which is a damn good deal, for anybody’s mom.
So thank you Barack Obama. There’s got to be a way out of this . .
Sitting in New York with my computer, I logged onto the site under her name and entered the information my mother provided over the phone. I fully expected her to realize that she had forgotten some crucial piece of information, like a decimal point in her annual income. We checked and double-checked the information, but the only option still appeared to be Medicaid. She suggested clicking on “Apply for Coverage,” thinking that other options might appear.
Instead, almost mockingly, her “Eligibility Results” came back: “Congratulations, we received and reviewed your application and determined [you] will receive the health care coverage listed below: Washington Apple Health.”
“Which will be provided to you free of charge” it said, humiliating her.
The page lacked a cancel button or any way to opt out of Medicaid. It was done; she was enrolled, and there was nothing to do but click “Next” and then to sign out.
That’s when I called the Sheriff. “Could you run out to the Hopkins place and cut Mama down from the gasolier?”
“I just don’t expect anything positive out of getting free health care,” she said. “I don’t see why other people should have to pay for my care, whether it be through taxes or otherwise.” In paying for health insurance herself—she won’t accept help from her family, either—she was safeguarding her dignity and independence and her sense of being a fully functioning member of society.
When the cost of ‘being a fully functioning member of society’ includes eating catfood canapés, she should consider the free insurance. And decent insurance at that. But if pride is what’s really important, I get it. Maybe Mom could refuse healthcare altogether, and when she ends up disabled she’ll have the self-esteem of King Farouk. Friend of the downtrodden, the Journal stood up for the fascistic well-insured.
For the truly poor, being institutionally forced to take welfare is demoralizing. The Affordable Care Act is at risk of systematizing learned helplessness by telling individuals like my mother that they cannot afford to care for themselves in the way they could before the law was enacted. “This makes me feel poorer than ever,” she said . .
. . she whined, returning her salary to her pocket. Why not take the $276 a month and learn a new skill set? Then you can get yourself a decent job, along with that same crappy Blue Cross coverage the rest of us have. You might also stop complaining, and that comes free of charge as well.
I’m proud to see the spiritedness and resolve that bears my mother up even now. Such character does not draw attention to itself: Its spark only catches the eye when oppression seeks to snuff it out.
O Emily Dickinson you pond’rous turd, she’ll be fine.