His swinging food tray leading the way, he plopped into the chair at the end of my table in the ferry’s dining lounge. “My balance hasn’t been good since my stroke,” he offered.
North Atlantic ocean waves were pounding the ferry as it left the protection of the Port Aux Basques harbour in Newfoundland bound for Nova Scotia. The six hour crossing promised to be unpleasant.
He had a kindly face, blonde-gray wavy hair and wire rimmed glasses, overweight in a cuddly, grandfatherly way. Truthfully, I wasn’t really listening to him, but I wanted company, desperately, to alleviate my seasickness. MacGyver had retreated below decks to our cabin.
The next thing I heard was truly baffling, I have no idea where it came from.
“I hate Obama. I don’t know your politics so I guess I shouldn’t say that.” Wow.
Hate is an emotional word. How would he justify it. We started to chat and I tugged him around to the issue of medical care in America because, as he confessed, he is not a healthy man.
His story illustrates the Great American Middle Class Political Disconnect that is so prevalent in the dying days of this presidential campaign, especially among the working class, and particularly the working class with no medical coverage.
A Pennsylvania moose hunter, my table companion was returning home skunked from his seventh expedition to Newfoundland. A husband, a father and grandfather to eight, he is semi-retired, self-employed, marketing industrial diamonds.
A Vietnam veteran, he left college in New York City to answer the call to the draft, a decision he is now grateful for because the Veteran’s Administration (VA) — a decidedly socialist institution that uses taxpayers’ money to look after our nation’s warriors — provides his healthcare.
His biggest run in with the medical system came a few years ago when he was saved by the medical system in MEXICO!
He took his wife on a surprise New Year’s holiday to Cancun where he had a stroke and fell down a flight of stairs. It was his second. He had suffered a mini stroke a few years before. He admitted he didn’t look after himself. He was whisked away to a new medical facility.
“My right side was paralyzed I knew I had about three hours to get the shot (a clot buster) before permanent damage,” he said. Doctors performed numerous tests, provided emergency treatment as well as additional treatment over a week and he has regained all his functions except his balance is off.
“You want to know how much that cost?” he asked me. You bet I did, since we fly to Thailand for regular checkups and minor preventative testing including the 50th birthday present du jour, a colonoscopy, all because we can’t afford regular full-service insurance in the U.S.
Our monthly premium for a catastrophe policy, purchased through Humana, to go along with our Health Savings Account, has increased for the third consecutive year from $249 to $296 to $308 and now to $376 per month, for nothing but the privilege of a $10,400 a year deductible before the insurance kicks in.
“The whole bill was $6,600,” he said, beaming. “They wouldn’t let me leave the country without paying it. It would have been ten times that in the States.”
Then he complained that the hotel and airlines “stuck it to me” because he had to stay extra days beyond the package and he changed their flight.
Here’s what moose hunter believes.
1. He doesn’t think it’s true that 50 million Americans have no insurance and if it is true, then it’s the 47% of people that Mitt Romney says pay no federal income tax, which is another distortion. Paying no federal income tax does not mean that a person pays NO tax, which is the falsehood that Romney planted.
2. He is angry that people can forgo insurance and still get treatment for free, something the Affordable Care Act addresses. And as proof, he says his son who is a chiropractor must treat welfare patients.
3. He doesn’t believe government should be involved in providing medical care. There’s too much government, he says.
This is typical of what I find among truck drivers who mostly don’t have any coverage unless their spouse has a job and has medical insurance. A 50+ owner-operator, team couple we know cancelled their medical insurance about three years ago when it reached $800 a month. They are not enamored of President Obama’s signature legislation.
In Florida, where we now live, the numbers of uninsured are huge. In Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest county, 30.5 percent are uninsured, 771,874 people. Generally, it’s the same story, people don’t like President Obama’s medical insurance plan, without any specific reason, even though they don’t have insurance, or have family members without insurance needing medical care but have no money.
Florida is a swing state. Florida could, once again, determine the election.
Back to Mr. Moose Hunter’s story.
While he has taxpayer-financed medical care through the VA — there is also taxpayer-financed Medicare and an anti-Obama, get-government-out-of-my-back-pocket trucker-couple that we know were thrilled to reach the magic age of 65 and overwhelmingly grateful to finally qualify — his wife has just become one of the 50 million Americans without health insurance. She was recently laid off from a medical company and Blue Cross, which insured her for years as an employee is not willing to continue her coverage. The cost of medical insurance on the open market is outrageously expensive.
“If anything happens it will be a problem,” he admitted. And he knows a problem means financial, as well as medical, catastrophe. Relatives on both sides of his family lost their homes because they couldn’t pay for medical care. If his wife needs care, it will deplete their savings.
In the medical insurance industry, their biggest customers tend to be the sickest people. They need the most work, but they cause the most expenses. Every CEO knows that the quickest way to goose a stock price, raise his compensation and pay for that corporate jet is to eliminate expenses, and in the medical insurance field that means deny claims, raise premiums, raise deductibles, cut coverage.
It seems, I told him, to be a no-brainer that medical insurance companies want to do everything possible to limit claims and NOT provide a service. He nodded his head in agreement. If government doesn’t put up a barrier to that, who can?
“Why do you believe that medical insurance companies will solve this issue on their own?” I asked him. “The only thing that has changed in the past 15 years is that more people are without coverage, coverage costs more and there’s less in the (medical insurance) plans.”
He didn’t answer me.
Our politicians are not stupid people, I told him. They know a good deal when they see one, and despite all the rhetoric about Obamacare, not one politician opposed to the Affordable Care Act — every Republican voted against it — has stood up and said: I am forgoing my socialist-Cadillac-medical-coverage-provided-by-the-taxpayer-bec
ause-I-am-a-Capitalist. Not one. They have a good deal.
To rub salt in the wound, many of those in Congress are millionaires — Pollitifact.com examined the issue and found 42% of the House of Representatives and 67% of the Senate are millionionaires — they can afford to buy insurance on the open market.
Moose hunter continued to nod his head.
Coming to life, he said, “And until recently they could do insider trading, and they get pensions when they leave Congress that taxpayers pay for.”
When you go to the polls next week, remember that the person you are voting for could very well be the recipient of the best medical coverage taxpayer money, YOUR money, can buy.
Yet, no one asks their elected representatives how much their premium costs, what the details are of their medical coverage and why don’t they quit it if they are committed to small government and Capitalism.
When MacGyer and I lived in New York, before the 2004 election, we confronted our elected representative Democrat Anthony Weiner in Union Square, where he was gladhanding for votes, about his health coverage. He asked us, with great disdain, Are you socialists?
He didn’t think we needed access to his type of coverage and he didn’t think he should give up his taxpayer-financed medical coverage. Who is the socialist in this scenario?
Five years later, in a neck-snapping flipflop, Barack Obama in the White House, Weiner became the medical insurance Messiah promoting the president’s healthcare legislation on the TV punditry circuit.
Every politician, opposed to the Affordable Care Act, who uses the taxpayer-paid medical coverage IS a socialist. If they truly believed in small-government-capitalism they would rely on the free market.
Non-partisan, third party sources have exposed the Obamacare myths. FactCheck.org has shown numerous times Obamacare is not a job killer and could help the economy. Obama’s healthcare legislation delivers millions of new customers to the insurance industry because we must all buy coverage. The unfettered marketplace has failed because people who need care are a drag on profits, corporations make money by eliminating expenses. And mandating that everyone have coverage is an important part of success, ask the States who have tried to create medical insurance plans and failed and the state that succeeded, Romney’s Massachusetts. The greater the number of people paying into medical insurance, the less expensive the coverage becomes.
Too many people believe the political and corporate rhetoric that we are somehow not real Americans or real patriots for questioning the current system, which benefits everyone but the American Middle Class.
If you think you’d kill or die for your children and your family members, maybe try something less risky by keeping an open mind and giving this historic legislation a chance.