If you guys don’t mind, I’d like to take a bit to talk about healthcare. I promise, I’ll bring it around to writing eventually. You’ll see, it’ll be some Christopher Nolan shit. Pledge, Turn, Prestige. By the end of the post you’ll find one of my many corpses decomposing in a water torture cell.
Or something. I lost the thread of that metaphor.
ANYWAY. For a lot of folks, healthcare is one of those occasional expenses, like getting an oil change. It happens every once in a while, it’s inconvenient, but you gotta do it to make sure everything keeps working smoothly. And that’s really great! That’s a good place to be.
I’m not quite so lucky. I have a strict regimen of medication I have to stick to, otherwise I run a high risk of getting a bacterial or fungal infection that’ll put me six feet under. No exaggeration. Similarly, I’ve got Ye Olde Depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and I’m medicated for both of those. If I’m not, shit gets fucked and I cease to be a functional human being.
I also have a really horrible habit of developing hernias out of literally nowhere, but I think that’s mostly bad luck. Either that, or my intestines really just can’t fucking stand my kidneys and they want to be anywhere other than in my abdominal cavity. But I digress.
So these healthcare bills. The most recent one, from out of the Senate, is barely an improvement over the House bill. And both want to leave it up to states to determine which healthcare services are “essential”. This is the part that worries me the most, for lots of people and lots of reasons. The state I live in, Oklahoma, has had a budget shortfall since 2014 (when the gap was a quaint $188 million which has since bloated to nearly $900 million). Just this past session they’ve got themselves in at least two lawsuits (from auto dealers and tobacco companies) by trying to pass revenue-raising measures off as “policy changes” (passing revenue-raising measures during the last five days of the legislative session is against the state constitution and they should know better).
So, in all honesty, I don’t trust the vast majority of Oklahoma state legislators as far as I can throw them. I can easily see them applying to have things like mental health services and prescription drug benefits and maternity care be waived as not essential in order to drive down the costs of insurance plans with the reasoning that cheaper insurance means more money for people to spend. More money to spend means more sales tax and other revenue, which in turn leads to cash flow for the state. I’m not an economist, so I don’t know if it actually works that way, but that’s what fiscal conservatives tend to believe. And God knows that the Oklahoma legislature is chockablock full of fiscal conservatives.
To veer off for a second, I’ve got a day job right now. That’s good! I have nothing against my day job whatsoever. It’s even enjoyable sometimes. I feel pretty lucky, seeing as I get solid insurance through my employer. But in the long term, my hope is that eventually I’ll be able to make a living writing. This will not happen any time soon, mind you. We’re talking a five-year plan at absolute best. Way on down the line.
Here’s where things get iffy. Because if I’m living as a writer, being my own boss with all the headaches that come with it, I’ll be signed up for individual insurance. If things go down the way I described, folks like me will need to pay more because our otherwise typical plans (which include things like mental health care and prescription drug benefits) just mutated into some kind of glitzy gold-plated rock star horseshit because it offers so much more than the new “standard” plan.
So for most folks, their premiums would go down because they would be getting fewer services (and paying higher deductibles when those services are actually used). Which isn’t going to be a big deal for most people. But for folks like me, and for older people, and for the nineteen million people who are going to get priced out of the insurance market by 2020, shit is gonna suck.
Also, these huge numbers keep getting thrown around, and nobody seems to be trying to contextualize them in any way. So, as a writer pretending to be good at math, lemme take a crack at it. A quick Google search tells me that the U.S. has a population of about 326.5 million. That means nineteen million is about 5.8% of the country’s total population. That’s more than one in every twenty people. And by 2026, we’d be looking at about 6.7% of the population being uninsured. If my math checks out, that’s uncomfortably close to one in fifteen.
So the long and the short of it is that if any standing variation of the AHCA—Senate or House—gets signed by the suppurating asshole currently sitting in the Oval Office, I’m gonna have to kiss my chance at writing for a living goodbye. And I’m not ready to do that. Not just yet. Which is why I’ve started calling my representatives in Congress for literally the first time ever. And if you have any desire to strike out on your own as an artist or to start your own company or even if you just want to help make sure that people get to keep the health insurance they’ve got, you should call your Senators.
And hey, I’ve even done some legwork for you!
Here’s a general number you can call where you just have to put in your ZIP code to get connected to a Senator’s office: 855-912-2982
If that doesn’t work, you can find their district office phone numbers here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm?State=OK
If you’re not a fan of phone calls (like me, because the phone function of my smartphone might be the actual devil), there’s a service that will turn your texts into faxes for your Congresspeople: Resistbot
If you don’t want to use a service as politically charged as Resistbot, there’s also this service, which lets you send faxes to your Senators from the web: FaxZero
The ACA isn’t perfect, folks. But it can be improved. Just not like this.
Next week will be a return to form with more lighthearted fare. Promise!