An Ode to Obamacare

According to the metrics of capitalistic success, under the influential myth of the American Dream, my income might be considered alarmingly low. Even so, I feel like one of the richest people alive because I don’t need much, and I live within my means. Sometime in early or mid-2016, I stepped away from a 35+ hour “day job” in favor of fully investing in contract opportunities for creative and teaching artist work. Part of that process was adjusting my income status on the WA Healthplan Finder website to reflect this change, and the screen froze with this announcement: “Congratulations, you qualify for a community health plan!”

I panicked. My anxiety spiked. I sobbed to the customer service rep on the phone, and he kept reassuring me that having health insurance without a monthly premium was actually a good thing. I could only imagine the nightmare of waiting for hours on end in a dingy clinic to receive the worst possible care — at that point in time when I needed a prescribed surgical procedure, to be performed by a referred specialist.

Somehow, I was convinced that paying hundreds of dollars per month for the silver or gold premiums would ensure my health and safety (and privilege) more so than a “free” community health plan (not free, thanks to taxpayers like myself). AKA Washington Apple Health. AKA Medicaid. Contrarily, since that fateful day at the computer in 2016, the only (mild) hassles have been: uploading paystubs and (maybe?) a copy of my recent Form 1040 to prove my income status; the cost of time and travel to the Shoreline CC Dental School, and to receive an Orca Lift card with reduced bus fare.

To date, since that fateful day, I’ve had two necessary surgeries, four post-op prescriptions, two or three post-op follow-up appointments, three preventative ultrasounds and mammograms, lab work for four biopsies (all benign!), multiple blood draws for preventative tests, two dental cleanings plus x-rays, three primary care annual exams (and maybe an extra visit or two in between for seasonal illnesses), my first eye exam, and a pair of prescription lenses. All of the above with medical providers of my choice, and all of the above at no out-of-pocket cost to me. Wait, the glasses cost a total of $20. Or was it $22? Still, no monthly premiums, no wild prescription prices, no co-pays or other specialist doctor fees, no lab fees.

For my situation, this is balanced with the price of having a minimal income. Now that I’ve received many benefits from this health plan, I do not understand why my fellow U.S. citizens would balk at Medicaid as a model for what politicians are calling “universal healthcare.” I honestly don’t even know the details of what they propose as said healthcare-for-all. From what I can tell, though, my Apple Health plan is the product of a taxpayer-based system.

So…we already do it. We already have a system in place, albeit for low-income citizens, and it’s not hurting anyone. The government already deducts a few dollars per paycheck for this system to exist. Wouldn’t you want that minimal expense rather than flushing hundreds of your hard-earned dollars per month toward healthcare you might not even utilize yourself? Why is it so difficult for us to imagine and implement fully-accessible, non-privatized healthcare for every person in this country?

I simply don’t understand why or how this doesn’t scream as a sweet deal for everyone. Wouldn’t we all benefit—as local neighborhoods, as a larger economy, as a world leader of democracy, as a country of innovation and opportunity—if we took care of all our citizens by way of something so basic?

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