Harmed by Obamacare, is it okay to complain?

  • Article by: LORI GOTTLIEB , The New York Times
  • Updated: November 11, 2013 - 3:12 PM

Some of us are supposed to happily pay more to benefit others. Okay, you first.

 

The Anthem Blue Cross representative who answered my call told me that there was a silver lining in the cancellation of my individual PPO policy and the $5,400 annual increase that I would have to pay for the Affordable Care Act-compliant option: now if I have Stage 4 cancer or need a sex-change operation, I’d be covered regardless of pre-existing conditions. Never mind that the new provider network would eliminate coverage for my and my son’s long-term doctors and hospitals.

The Anthem rep cheerily explained that despite the company’s — I paraphrase — draconian rates and limited network, my benefits, which also include maternity coverage (handy for a 46-year-old), would “be actually much richer.”

I, of course, would be actually much poorer. And it was this aspect of the bum deal that, to my surprise, turned out to be a very unpopular thing to gripe about.

“Obamacare or Kafkacare?” I posted on Facebook as soon as I hung up with Anthem. I vented about the call and wrote that the president should be protecting the middle class, not making our lives substantially harder. For extra sympathy, I may have thrown in the fact that I’m a single mom. (OK, I did.)

Then I sat back and waited for the love to pour in. Or at least the “like.” Lots of likes. After all, I have 1,037 Facebook friends. Surely, they’d commiserate.

Except that they didn’t.

Instead, aside from my friend David, who attempted to cheer me up with, “My dad, who never turns down a bargain, would take the sex change just because it’s free,” my respondents implied — in posts that, to my annoyance, kept getting more “likes” — that it was beyond uncool to be whining about myself when the less fortunate would finally have insurance.

“The nation has been better off,” wrote one friend. “Over 33 million people who did not have insurance are now going to get it.” That’s all fine and good for “the nation,” but what about my $5,400 rate hike (after-tax dollars, I wanted to add, but dared not in this group of previously closeted Mother Teresas)? Another friend wrote, “Yes, I’m paying an extra $200 a month, but I’m okay with doing that so that others who need it can have health care.”

I was shocked. Who knew my friends were such humanitarians? Has Obamacare made it un-PC to be concerned by a serious burden on my family’s well-being?

The heated reactions even moved offline. Frustrated, I observed to one friend who was covered through her work that when an issue didn’t affect people directly, they became “theoretically generous.” Ask them to donate several thousand dollars so that the less fortunate can have medical insurance — which is exactly what President Barack Obama is asking me to do — and I’ll bet they’d change their tune about “ending inequality” and “creating fairness” and “doing what’s good for the country.”

Refreshingly, the two people who showed real empathy were my insurance broker and my friend Nicole, who sent daily links to news stories about people who were also stripped of their coverage and mandated to buy expensive exchange or private policies without access to their current doctors, yet just missed the cutoff for subsidies.

There was one story about people suing Anthem for not being grandfathered in after changing their policies post-2010. In fact, it was in 2011 that I altered mine, dumping maternity benefits so that I didn’t have to pay for everyone else’s pregnancies. Little did I know I’d end up losing my insurance and paying for everyone else’s pregnancies.

There was even an article about a cancer patient who had lost access to her doctors. To her credit, Nicole refrained from saying, “But, Lori, this woman has cancer and you are so much more fortunate!”

Like Bridget Jones’ “smug marrieds,” the “smug insureds” — friends who were covered through their own or spouses’ employers or who were grandfathered into their plans — asked why I didn’t “just” switch all of our long-term doctors, suck it up and pay an extra $200 a month for a restrictive network on the exchange, or marry the guy I’m dating. How romantic: “I didn’t marry you just to save money, honey. I married you for your provider network.”

Along with the smug insureds, Obama doesn’t care much about the relatively small percentage of us with canceled coverage and no viable replacement. He keeps apologizing while maintaining that it’s for the good of the country, a vast improvement “overall.”

And the “overall” might agree. But the self-employed middle class is being sacrificed at the altar of politically correct rhetoric, with nobody helping to ensure our health, fiscal or otherwise, because it’s trendy to cheer for the underdog. Embracing the noble cause is all very well — as long as yours isn’t the “fortunate” family that loses its access to comprehensive, affordable health care while the rest of the nation gets it.

 

The truly noble act here is being performed by my friend Nicole, who keeps posting Obamacare fiasco stories on my Facebook page, despite being conspicuously ignored, except for my single “like.” It’s the lone “like” that falls in the forest, the click nobody wants to hear.

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