As I watched Congress teeter over the fiscal cliff this week, I wondered about my own financial future. Retirement is starting to creep into my worldview as a I fantasize about how I would spend my days without 2-hour commutes, spreadsheets and the drama of the corporate world.
I was counting on the Affordable Care Act as a way to accelerate my exit from the daily grind, softening the financial blow on health care coverage between now and Medicare. And now, the Tea Party is set on killing the legislation.
I have been surprised that people are against universal health care coverage. While the ACA has a lot of flaws because of the compromises it took to get passed, it was a start at something good. We'll fix the bugs over time and make it better.
And yes, we will pay higher taxes, and young, healthy people who are living without health coverage will have to start paying for it. It's much bigger than that, I know. But let’s be honest: everyone is an accident waiting to happen. We need a big pool of people to keep costs down. That's how the ACA will succeed.
A writer I know and her self-employed husband are paying $30,000 a year in health care coverage and expenses. Both have pre-existing conditions that aren’t covered. She’s been one of those people jamming the website and the phone lines of the ACA since October 1, trying to replace her highway robbery coverage with a plan that actually covers their pre-existing conditions.
These two have professional salaries so that $30K hurts (a lot) but they're not starving. Think about working class people with families who don’t have employer coverage. It’s no wonder they can’t afford health care coverage. But they are showing up in the ER. And as a society, we’re paying for it.
I'm lucky; I have had employer-paid coverage since my first part-time union job in 1972. Like most people today, I share in the cost of my employer coverage through premiums, deductibles and co-pays, but it's less than my cable bill. On my own, I’ll need almost a mortgage payment to pay for healthcare coverage before I get to Medicare. That’s why I’m rooting for the ACA.
I am typing this post without the use of my left thumb, which I carelessly cut along with a wedge of cabbage in a soup-making binge on Sunday. It was a serious enough to seek help, and with stitches, tetanus shot, antibiotic, and urgent care center visit I will pay $300 out of pocket. This is the cost of care with insurance.
Health care is expensive. Everyone is a slip of a knife away from an urgent care visit, and a toss of the dice away from a catastrophic illness or a chronic conditions like asthma. And we are all at risk of losing our jobs and our health coverage.
The government shutdown and the debt ceiling drama are over – at least for a few more months. I’ll try not to look at my 401k during this economic roller coaster ride. And hope that the ACA website is working by 2015.
And I’ll skip the Martini when I’m chopping vegetables.
What are you thinking about the Affordable Care Act? Does it worry you or give you hope?