Pro Lefty Michael Moore: Obamacare is “Awful”

What is wrong with Michael Moore, really? For that matter, what is it about so many professional lefties that they are preternaturally disposed to bitch about good things more than they are to praise the good things and advocate for improvements they think are necessary.

I mean, I like many of Moore’s documentaries, although I found many of the characterizations in “Sicko” to be misleading and exaggerated. But these days, he seems to have dismissed the real world when it comes to politics, in favor of some grandiose concept of what should be that simply isn’t possible. Case in point: he wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, in which he called Obamacare “awful” in the first paragraph, and called it “a godsend” many paragraphs later, when he assumed people had stopped reading. In general, it can’t be both. But his reasons for calling it “awful” are because of where he thinks the idea came from (he’s only partially right, but because other pro lefties . He also doesn’t seem to be able to tell the truth about it. To start this little missive, he wrote:

TODAY marks the beginning of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges, for which two million Americans have signed up. Now that the individual mandate is officially here, let me begin with an admission: Obamacare is awful.

First of all, six million have signed up through the exchanges, not two million. Those figures were released yesterday, but even if he submitted it a few days ago, it’d be a simple task to call the Times and ask them to change “two” to “six.” But the exchanges are only part of the story, anyway. In fact, the exchanges are only expected to cover about 4-7% of all insured. Most people who are getting insurance starting today are getting it from their employers. Insurance policies are also better now, because they cover virtually everything, insurance companies can’t deny claims for much of anything anymore, pre-existing conditions are history and there are no more annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Also, insurance companies have to pay out 80-85% of premiums for health care. In all, when everyone is finally signed up, about 30-40 million more people will have insurance than had it before, and their insurance will pay for a lot more. That’s not awful. It may not be Moore’s dream, but frankly, it’s about 80% or more of what we wanted.

Consider all of the improvements to the health care system I note above (and that’s only the tip of the iceberg) when you read this section from Moore’s piece:

What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney’s car. And we knew it.

First of all, who CARES where the bill came from? If George W. Bush proposed single-payer health insurance, would Moore reject it? Not likely. And if so, there’s something wrong with him. Besides, he’s largely wrong. Yes, the original bill was largely cribbed from a Bob Dole alternative to Hillarycare, and some of that came from the Heritage Foundation 20 years ago. But much of it was modeled after Romneycare, which was largely crafted by Massachusetts liberals. Also, the original bill as it was written was changed in many ways during debate. Quite a few things were added, such as the 80-85% mandate on insurance companies, with rebates from those companies who don’t meet that standard. That was proposed by Al Franken, and that will probably lead to a public option within a few years. Not only is he wrong about where the ACA came from, but his comment about “a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact” is clueless in the extreme.

At the time the ACA was being debated, about 83% of Americans had health insurance, with virtually all of them having insurance with a private company. Who in their right mind would think it possible to take away the insurance of 83% of the American public and replace it with… what, exactly? At best, we might have been able to make an option to buy into Medicare available, but it was unlikely that most people would just jump to it. Look at the complaints from the people who didn’t get to keep their previous insurance for a clue. All that noise, and that only affected perhaps 5% of all insured Americans, at most. Raise that to 83%, and imagine the screaming. Does Moore really imagine that we were going to get 83% of Americans to just give up private insurance and get them to take whatever we said they had to have? How in the hell would that bill make it through Congress?

If Moore wants single payer or an expansion of Medicare, he’s not alone. Many people do. But it will be a hell of lot easier to make that jump from where we are now than where we were four years ago. Like I said; with the larger risk pools and the narrower profit margin (15%), it is likely the private insurance companies will demand a public option, which will create an opening. In any case, the goal is universal access to health care, not single payer. The only three countries Moore covered in Sicko with single payer were Canada, the UK and Cuba, and none of the three boast stellar medical outcomes. Meanwhile, countries like France and Germany, which are at or near the top, are not single payer. There isn’t only one way to accomplish universal health care as a right.

And then there’s crap like this:

For many people, the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act risks being a cruel joke. The cheapest plan available to a 60-year-old couple making $65,000 a year in Hartford, Conn., will cost $11,800 in annual premiums. And their deductible will be $12,600. If both become seriously ill, they might have to pay almost $25,000 in a single year. (Pre-Obamacare, they could have bought insurance that was cheaper but much worse, potentially with unlimited out-of-pocket costs.)

And yet — I would be remiss if I didn’t say this — Obamacare is a godsend. My friend Donna Smith, who was forced to move into her daughter’s spare room at age 52 because health problems bankrupted her and her husband, Larry, now has cancer again. As she undergoes treatment, at least she won’t be in terror of losing coverage and becoming uninsurable. Under Obamacare, her premium has been cut in half, to $456 per month.

First, note the contradictions. A few people are seeing higher premiums, most are not. Reforming health insurance is a process. First, we have to get everyone covered. Keep in mind; 30 million people, many of whom have pre-existing conditions and many of whom haven’t had access to medical care for years, suddenly have insurance. There will be a surge in costs for the first few years. Plus, you have insurance companies taking on considerably larger risk pools. True, there will also be a lot more people paying premiums, but we don’t know if that extra money will cover the increased costs yet.

After virtually everyone is covered, the initial surge in treatment is over, and we have a handle on costs, then we can start working on tweaking the policies to make them more affordable. But let’s look at those numbers.

First of all, if this 60-year-old couple has a job, their employer will be paying at least two-thirds of the premium, so their cost will be about $3,700 per year. Most employers will actually pay more than that. Also, I hate to break it to Moore, but the average cost for a family premium in 2009 (before ACA) was more than $14,000, and the average deductible was also $14,000 (Source) There were no limits on out-of-pocket expenses before, whereas now it’s $12,500 (not $12,600) for a family or $6,250 per individual. There are also several levels of plans available to this couple.  Previously, there was no maximum, insurance companies could refuse to cover anything that might cost them too much, and there was an annual maximum. In other words, they’re getting better insurance. If there is a concern regarding deductibles and high out-of-pocket expenses, that couple can choose another plan, with higher premiums and lower deductibles.

And then he calls it a “godsend.” Make up your mind, Michael, it can’t be both “awful” and a “godsend.” Why don’t you tell people who have been refused health insurance in the past just how “awful” paying an average premium (or below, if they make less than 300% of poverty level) and being limited to $12,500 out-of-pocket (or far less, depending on income) is? Why don’t you tell the parents of kids with terrible illnesses how “awful” it is that their kids will be able to get health insurance when they grow up?

I don’t understand why so many professional lefties think the only course they have on everything is to complain about glasses that are half empty and refuse to do anything to fill the glass more. No one in their right mind thinks the ACA is perfect. Ask Obama; even he won’t tell you that. The glass is half full, but we’ll never fill it by whining about how bad at is. Instead, we’ll need to accept what we have and improve on it. To his credit, Moore finally suggests we make changes, at the very end, after he’s basically trashed the law and only praised it faintly to keep from being “remiss.”

Negativity is why progressives lose. Our loudest advocates seem unable to praise anything. For some reason, they thin they lose credibility if they say something good. It’s absurd. To make this a progressive nation, we have to build it, not tear things down. We can still push for a public option. Within a few years, after insurance companies lose all hope of repealing the ACA, they will probably push for a public option themselves. But we don’t have to wait. Get us a Democratic House and more Democratic Senators and we can have it our way. And since it won’t involve a complete overhaul of the system, but rather a few tweaks, it’ll be easier.

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