Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Offer help to those who might need help...

Although this post will probably be taken by some as an opportunity to editorialize against what is, to them, a hot-button issue, to me what this post demonstrates is that yet another aspect of the ACA is working. (And yes, in saying this I am editorializing, but it’s my post… ;-) …go write your own.)

When we signed up for a 2014 healthcare policy under the ACA in November of 2013, we estimated our 2014 income based solely on information available to us at that time, but after doing our 2014 taxes, we found we were off in this estimate. We were low. As a result, we have to pay back 100% of what we received in 2014 policy-premium tax credits. 

So be it.

We both believe this scenario is proof that the ACA is working. Why? Because thanks to the ACA, we received A) healthcare coverage for which we otherwise could not have qualified, because of preexisting conditions or that we would not have received via an employer, because we're both retired, and B) the premium tax credit to help pay for it; however, due to a better-than-expected 2014, we ended up not being eligible for the premium tax credit after all.* Meanwhile, though, others who do qualify for this tax credit will also receive healthcare and will, subsequently, also be able to pay a little less for it. Moreover, still others who are on the cusp will have the chance to receive premium tax credits at the end of their tax year when they file, thereby reducing what they will have paid in healthcare premiums for healthcare they need, just like everyone else who needs it.

You bet this is wealth redistribution, but so what? What’s the alternative? the invisible hand of the market reaching into its invisible pocket and pulling out invisible cash? People who can't even afford feeding themselves somehow finding the cash? Or worse, people going without even basic, subsistence-level healthcare, like some bizarre, Darwinian imperative made flesh? You can only pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if you can afford boots in the first place.

Having applied twice now, I can tell you the ACA is nowhere near a perfect system, but right after you suggest it needs to be repealed/eliminated, please also suggest a viable alternative, because we have US citizens who are one severe illness away from total financial collapse, and these are people who are neither freeloaders nor welfare kings/queens. Who are they? They're our parents, our grandparents, our uncles and aunts, our brothers and sisters, our friends, and complete strangers, many of whom were maybe not as fortunate, maybe not as able to provide for themselves. 

Look, I realize healthcare is not free. I get this. It isn't free because it can't be free. Doctors aren't free. Nurses aren't free. Hospitals aren't free. Procedures aren't free. Prescriptions aren't free. Even free clinics aren't free because donations help pay for them. I am not advocating for free healthcare, because it's an impossibility, by definition. Even the countries that provide healthcare to their citizens offer anything but free healthcare, because their citizens pay the taxes that pay for that healthcare. Free healthcare? No such thing.

What I am suggesting, though, is simply offering a "healthcare hand," so called, to people who might need it, and not an invisible hand with its invisible middle finger raised, either. A real hand. One these folks can grab and use to pull themselves up a little. 

But wait, you say, can we afford this? 

By way of an answer, ask yourself what we actually choose to afford, then ask the previous question again. Sure, the US spends money it doesn’t always have. I know this as well as you. But this is about priorities.

So, as just a few possible ways to help pay for the ACA's tax credits, maybe there are some...

...military bases or NSA listening posts we can close… or 

...giant corporations that aren’t paying their fair share of income/property taxes (corporations are people, after all, right?)… or 

...esoteric weapons systems we can resist having… or 

...giant piles of scrap metal we can sell in the form of obsolete weapon systems we no longer use… or

...badly needed infrastructure projects that, in being repaired/replaced, would generate  revenue through new wages and new sales taxes...or

...millionaire congress people who can forgo their pensions or who, in retirement, can afford to provide their own security… or 

...billionaire/millionaire Americans who can forgo their social security checks in retirement… or

...wealthy athletes, coaches, actors, actresses, directors, producers, agents, or publicists who advocate for wealth redistribution and who can, instead of just talking about it conceptually, simply write a couple of large checks now and again ... or

...gun owners/enthusiasts who buy/use/hoard guns and ammo --- as is their undeniable 2nd Amendment right, and mine --- maybe paying a little something extra for the privilege of buying/using/hoarding all those guns and all that ammo (one of the prices of freedom)... or 

...obscenely giant estates that can afford to pay higher inheritance taxes… or 

...little-used presidential libraries --- and don't we have enough already? --- that can shut their doors completely or just reduce their hours… or 

...ginormous sports organizations that routinely don’t pay for their own sports facilities, and yes, I'm talking to you FIFA, NFL, NASCAR, NCAA, IOC, et al. (see also, “corporations are people, after all”)… or 

...high-risk hedge fund and derivatives investors who might not be paying their fair share of income taxes... or 

...churches/temples/mosques/synagogues that sit on all-too-often-enormous tracts of currently untaxed city and county property… or 

...any number of other ways to come up with the cash.  

The undeniable fact is that we’re an aging country with people who need help now and will need some in the future. From whom will this help come? From those who can most afford to help, that’s who. Folks in need can always refuse help, but we can at least ensure we have the ability to offer it to them in the first place.

We claim to be exceptional, but why do we so often have such difficulty behaving that way?

* We have consequently opted out of premium tax credit assistance, going forward.